Como bluesman R.L. Boyce dies at 68

Published 4:22 pm Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Blues singer, songwriter and guitarist R.L. Boyce, a lifelong resident of Como, MS whose 2018 album “Roll and Tumble” was nominated for a Grammy award, passed away on Nov. 9, 2023, at the age of 68.

Boyce was known as one of the last torchbearers of North Mississippi Hill Country blues music, and his hypnotic boogie style of guitar playing was admired worldwide.  

He began his career as a teenager playing drums for his uncle, legendary fife player Otha Turner, and also performed on Jesse Mae Hemphill’s 1990 album, “Feelin’ Good.”

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Boyce was a protege of Hill Country blues patriarchs R. L. Burnside and Mississippi Fred McDowell, who also spent much of his life in Como.  McDowell’s forthright catchline “I don’t play no rock and roll” was sometimes echoed by R.L. during performances. 

His debut album, “Ain’t the Man’s Alright,” released in 2013, featured several acclaimed North Mississippi musicians, including Cedric Burnside, Luther Dickinson, and Calvin Jackson.

Other Boyce albums are “Rattlesnake Boogie ” and “Ain’t Gonna Play Too Long, both released in 2018 on the Waxploitation record label.

In recent years the “Big Blues Mane” hosted a popular annual event, the R.L. Boyce Picnic, which he put on with family and friends.  It carried on the tradition of an old-time family picnic, with the music and moonshine drinking sometimes lasting all night long, in the spirit of an authentic juke joint. 

The event also embraced education in the blues and hosted guitar and drum workshops, presented a unique historical gallery, and offered a guided Hill Country blues tour.  

Video documentaries featuring Boyce include “Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: A Musical Journey” (2003), “M for Mississippi” (2008), “Moonshine & Mojo Hands (2014), and “I Am The Blues” (2015).

Felix Cauthen Funeral Home in Senatobia has charge of arrangements.