ROSEDALE, MD (CelebrityAccess) — Vocalist, guitarist, pianist and songwriter Wendell Holmes of The Holmes Brothers died at his home on June 19th from complications due to pulmonary hypertension. He was 71.
Wendell was born in Christchurch, Virginia in 1943. He and his older brother Sherman were raised by their schoolteacher parents, who nurtured the boys’ early interest in music. Growing up, they listened to traditional Baptist hymns, anthems and spirituals as well as blues music by Jimmy Reed, Junior Parker and B.B. King.
According to Wendell, “It was a small town, and my brother and I were about the only ones who could play anything. So we played around in all the area churches on Sundays.”
Following high school, Wendell joined Sherman, who had already begun playing professionally in New York. The two brothers played in a few bands before forming The Sevilles in 1963. The group lasted only three years, but made a reputation for themselves backing up touring artists like The Impressions, John Lee Hooker and Jerry Butler, gaining a wealth of experience.
Sherman and Wendell then met drummer Popsy Dixon, a fellow Virginian, at a New York gig in 1967. Dixon sat in with the brothers and sang two songs. “After that second song,” recalls Wendell, “Popsy was a brother.” They continued to play in a variety of Top 40 bar bands until 1979, when the three officially joined forces and formed The Holmes Brothers band.
The Holmes Brothers would tour extensively, both in the U.S. and aboard, and released 12 albums starting with 1990's "In The Spirit" on Rounder. Their most recent release is 2014's "Brotherhood" on Alligator.
In September 2014, The Holmes Brothers were honored with a National Endowment For The Arts National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor the United States bestows upon its folk and traditional artists. They won two Blues Music Awards including Blues Band Of The Year in 2005. The Holmes Brothers are featured on the cover of the current issue of Living Blues magazine.
Holmes is survived by his wife, Barbara; daughters Felicia and Mia; brothers Sherman and Milton; and three grandsons. – Staff Writers