Archive for May 17th, 2015

bb_king_lucille-4Times continually passes on and takes some of our friends along with it as it goes.  Thursday,  that friend was the great BB King.  He was the ambassador and face of the blues for the last half century, a genial presence who crossed over into the mainstream yet maintained the same intensity and integrity as when he was carving out his legend in the 1950’s playing clubs across the country as he toured almost non-stop.

By the time I was in my teens, he had transcended the blues and was part of popular culture.  The Thrill Is Gone was a mainstream hit, winning him a Grammy in 1970, and he maintained a visibility on the television, always accompanied by Lucille, his black Gibson guitar which has become probably the only guitar that most people can recognize by name.   And if they didn’t know her name they most likely knew the sound of her voice. Everybody knew who BB King was.

But my real introduction to BB King came when I was going through the used bin at a local record shop and found a  beat up copy  of  his Live at the Regal Theater from a show in Chicago in late 1964.  It was well worn as though whoever had owned it before had played the hell out of it.  From the second the needle on my turntable snapped into the groove, I understood why  that was so.

Pure electric, a perfect storm of time, place and people made every moment of that record crackle.  One listen and you knew it was about as good as it gets.  I still get shivers when I hear it.

So to honor the passing of our friend, this Sunday’s music is a song that was a favorite of that Regal Theater crowd (and mine as well), How Blue Can You Get?  But the performance I am showing is from a different venue.  It’s from a Thanksgiving show in 1972 from NY’s Sing Sing Prison with BB King, The Voices of East Harlem and Joan Baez.  I think this is a great version of the song and seeing the inmates respond really adds something to it.

So, give a listen to our friend and have yourself a great Sunday.

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