The ‘68 Comeback Special
On this inaugural episode of the ‘Special: We reflect on the life & times of B.B. King, Tom Jones reinvents a Howlin’ Wolf classic, John Paul Keith & Nikki Lane (pictured) investigate the fringe benefits of a career in rock ‘n roll, & much more.
It’s Sunday afternoon & I’m reflecting on the life & times of the Beale Street Blues Boy. Like many in my generation, I was introduced to B.B. King through U2’s When Love Comes To Town, but it wasn’t until I spent time in Memphis years later that I really came to appreciate what he was all about. It always struck me that Elvis Presley was a teenager learning to play country & rock n’ roll in his family’s Lauderdale Courts apartment just blocks away from the YMCA where B.B. was recording early hits like Three O’Clock Blues. A friend of mine used to posit that the two probably walked right past one another on Danny Thomas Boulevard, & I think that’s likely true. Elvis may have even listened to B.B.’s radio show on WDIA... the early ‘50s were a magical time in Memphis.
Like Elvis would do for rock ’n roll, B.B. brought the blues to the world stage. He was a tireless ambassador, playing 200 shows per year for six decades not for the money or the fame, but just because he loved to play the blues. And because he loved women. And perhaps that’s the formula... if you loved to play as much as B.B. did, & if you loved women as much as B.B. did, maybe you, too, could’ve become a blues legend. I like to think it’s that simple.
With his passing, we’ve lost an American music legend. Guitar players everywhere have lost an otherworldly prophet. And Viagra has lost a loyal customer. But we’re left with a body of work that will live on forever, to which much love making will continue to transpire even in his absence. God rest his soul, the King of the Blues, B.B. King.
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