B.B. KING

CONSIDER THIS:

    The first time I saw and heard B.B. King play guitar and sing, he was 30 years old. I was a 15-year-old high school kid who had just started playing the guitar. B.B. was my hero. I wanted to play like he did, sing like he did, and one day be a famous blues star like he was. King was 89 years old when he recently left this life. I want you to consider what an influence he was on the world’s music.    King had a long and productive career, spanning 7 decades. But it was during the 1950’s that he made his mark and recorded perhaps the best urban blues music ever heard. Backed up by the fabulous, yet under-appreciated, Maxwell Davis Orchestra, these hit records set the standard for aspiring blues singers and guitarists in America, and later in Europe. The 1955 recording of Memphis Slim’s “Everyday I Have The Blues” is a masterpiece—the blues equivalent of “Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.” It is my all-time favorite blues record. It featured perfect guitar playing, perfect singing, and perfect backing by Davis’ orchestra. The musical marriage of King and Davis produced numerous, quality records, but none better than “Everyday.”    Riley B. King was born in the Mississippi Delta, but he was definitely not a country or “Delta Blues” artist. His style was urban. He once said so himself. He wasn’t at all like Robert Johnson, Son House, and John Lee Hooker. B. B. was slick like the artist who influenced him—T.Bone Walker, who played a swing-style of blues which used to be referred to as “Jump Blues.” This urban style was like much of the jazz of the l940’s and 1050’s. It was characterized by singers working with horn bands. It was therefore quite natural for an artist like King to work with and record with the likes of Maxwell Davis’ band. Davis was a tenor saxophonist and arranger based in Los Angeles.    Even though the 1950’s were the most creative years for B.B. King, his biggest hit record came in the early 1970’s—“The Thrill Is Gone.” In case you are interested, his 1950’s work might still be available in a Crown Records compilation called “Singing The Blues.” The catalog number is: CDCHM 1041.    Thank you, B.B. for helping to shape and popularize America’s most important secular music—The Blues. And, thank you for teaching us, by example, how to play it and sing it. Your many honors and awards over a long career prove that you deserved the title: KING OF THE BLUES.