Saturday, January 26, 2008

The King of the Blues: B. B. King

Memphis, Tennessee sometime late 1996. My boss at the time scheduled a regional meeting for all of us in his favorite city. The meeting was short, the parties long, as was his style.

We were cruising Beale St after some fine ribs at the Rendezvous and some fun at the Rum Boogie Cafe. We hit B.B. Kings' Place and settled in to listen to the band. A commotion at the back caught our attention. In came B.B. himself. About 72 then but still vital. He waved to us all, sat down and sang and played with the band for about 45 minutes or so and then waved a hearty bye and quickly left. Soon the waitress brought us a round of drinks we did not order. "On the house from Mr. King", she explained. We raised a toast to the "King of the Blues".

B.B. King came to Kansas City last night and I had the chance to see him perform at an 80th birthday bash for the restored Uptown Theatre, just down the street from the Palace. Opening for King was the Brody Buster Trio.

I had not heard Brody Buster before last night's opener and after set in the Uptown's bar. Buster is a 20 something local white boy that can blow a mean blues harp with the best of them (for the uninitiated a blues harp is also known as a harmonica), rivals King on the guitar and possesses a fine blues voice. He was quite impressive and I hope to hear more from him. He apparently started the harp at a young age and has quite the credentials as a blues man.

Anyway, the night was King's and he did not disappoint. Most of his favorites made an appearance including "Let the Good Times Roll", "Rock Me Baby" and of course "The Thrill Is Gone". Quite a bit of the evening (a little too much despite being entertaining) was devoted to his stories of his Mississippi home town and his devotion to the ladies (he supposedly has at least 15 children). Funny and charming, but I longed to just hear him coax some fine tunes from his beloved guitar "Lucille". At 82 and ailing (he is diabetic and must have some vision problems as he was helped on and off the stage and once quipped "I can't see you but I can sure hear you!"), he did play and entertain for almost 2 hours.

I left completely satisfied that I had again seen a legend, maybe not in his prime but sure with a lot of life left in him. As his song went "I am a blues man, and a good man".

Damn straight B.B., and thanks for the drink!

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