Saturday, May 16, 2015

B.B. King - Long Live the King - SOLD

Last night I saw a live performance by Andy Frasco.  At one point, Andy mentioned B. B. King's death, because, you know, all music lovers are mourning (my words, not his).  He said they would perform "The Thrill Is Gone" in his honor.  He paused for a split-second and I heard him say to the guitarist from Arkansas* (I was close) "Are you o.k. with that, we didn't rehearse it, it's A minor."  Well, the guitarist immediately shook his head back and forth--I imagined him thinking, of course I know it, I'm a blues guitarist and every blues guitarist must know it. He immediately launched into a beautiful version to honor the King of the Blues.  Both he and the drummer had met him before. The latter said that he was the nicest man he had ever met.

I saw B. B. King three times.  Once in college, once at Chicago's annual Blues Fest, and once at Eric Clapton's 2007 Crossroads Guitar Tour in Chicago (Bridgeview). He was so masterful and feeling when he bent those guitar notes.  I think Adam Gobnik (love that guy) from The New Yorker put it better than anyone else.  This nail-on-the-head description sums it up the best:
  •  ...But in an instant it was plain that no one made a guitar talk as B. B. King did, as an extension of his entire soul, and instrument of human expression.
  • ...The sound of King's guitar, no matter how often imitated--and, on the surface, as with Louis Armstrong's trumpet, it sounded obvious, all that single-note shimmering--remains one of the inimitable sound in American music.  It has a clipped, precise, syncopated, pin-striped-suit quality, not usually swooping or weeping or sliding.  His first thoughts came in small, neat sentences,  He would play a chorus in that way, then pause and play a complementary, related phrase with a more groaning intonation.   
  • ...The tension in his music--it was, in retrospect, I suppose, a play between a jazz ear and a blues hand, and even between the city and the country--paid off in a quality that I recognized at once that night...
Do yourself a favor and click HERE for Gobnik's full article, "B.B. King's Inimitable Sound."

I drew a younger B.B. below, studying in a video clip the way his facial expressions would mimic the guitar notes his fingers were bending.  I know I didn't do him justice...I just really feel upset about losing him.  I knew he was in failing health, but you know when you lose someone who's always been a part of your life...or musical life?  It feels like there's a blown-out hole in the beach ball form of planet Earth.  No one can ever replace such a loss.  

In the documentary, "B. B. King - Life of Riley," (if you have amazonPrime, it's running for free right now), Aaron Neville says, "Well, when you say Blues, you have to say B.B., no doubt." And Eric Clapton respectfully admits, "He's the master, he really is the grand master."  Now I think I'll have to cry some more.

"The Thrill Is Gone"

U2 and B. B. King "When Love Came to Town" from "Rattle and Hum"

Mark Fourth's YouTube clip from Eric Clapton's 2007 Crossroads Guitar Tour--so glad I was there to witness this in person.

B. B. said this was one of his best performances (at Chicago State Prison.)

B.B. changes guitar string mid-song at Farm Aid.  Captain Cool! I saw this, too!

I love the "Blank of Blank" series.  (Check on Jim Morrison on eating sometime.)  Anyway, here's a great one on B.B. I especially love his comment on getting compliments, taking them, but then going back to his room to practice some more.  And also when people bad talk you, it's o.k., because you just need to know yourself.  Both comments are a testament of hard work, dedication to craft, and focusing on your art, the reason why you're here, rather than what people think of you, good or bad.

Here's a beautiful tribute from Carlos Santana:

Chairman of the board is home !!
All the kings are celebrating
the gathering of the elegance and excellence
In the ocean of the blues kingdom

Freddie King 

Albert King

Saunders King

All and many more

In the King family

Are welcoming the one

That made the blues SUPREME


We offer you our total gratitude

Jimi Hendrix Stevie Ray

Otis Rush Magic Sam Buddy Guy
Eric Clapton Jeff Beck Jimmy Page
Michael Bloomfield Peter Green Javier Batiz
All of US and many more
We are your children disciples students followers
And lovers of your most beautiful notes
You showed us the way to the heart soul spirit
With every note you told stories of grace and beauty
Enjoy being in the fullness of our lord supreme
Enjoy the effulgent light that you are
GOD bless you and embrace you
¡¡El presidente de la junta está en casa!!
Todos los reyes están celebrando
la reunión de elegancia y excelencia
En el océano del reino del blues
Freddie King
Albert King
Saunders King
Todos y muchos más
de la familia King
Están dando la bienvenida al único
A quien hizo al blues SUPREMO
Te ofrecemos nuestra gratitud total
Jimi Hendrix Stevie Ray
Otis Rush Magic Sam Buddy Guy
Eric Clapton Jeff Beck Jimmy Page
Michael Bloomfield Peter Green Javier Batiz
Todos NOSOTROS y muchos más
Somos tus hijos, discípulos, estudiantes, seguidores
Y amantes de tus notas más hermosas
Tú nos has mostrado el camino al corazón, al alma, al espíritu
Con cada nota has contado historias de gracia y belleza
Disfruta estando en la plenitud de nuestro señor supremo
Disfruta la luz resplandeciente que eres
DIOS te bendiga y te acoja
(*I couldn't find that guitarist's name on A.F.'s website.)
Here's one more blues legend to check out, if you're still reading this far down:  Buddy Guy.


  1. Very sad. Love your piece and post Jill! Thanks for sharing the links.

  2. Thank you, Sheila, on both accounts. (-: I'm happy to share the links and and spread the word on B.B. Thanks for taking the time to read and to check them out. (-: