Yes, this is a tribute to the Legendary, Riley B. King, better known as B. B. King, born September 16, 1925 and was approaching his 90th birthday this year. Passed May 14, 2015.
I had the pleasure to be present at a Grammy Award back in 1985/86 and watched B.B. jam on stage with Mark Knopfler, Hank Williams Jr, J.J. Cale and others. They all had their guitars screaming out all at once, playing every note on the fret board.
Except for B.B.
He just stood there and played one single note and it stood out by far from that wall of a sound coming from all those other guitar players. Yes, B.B. King had the most distinctive guitar tone ever. On that day I learned that guitar playing is all about quality and not quantity. Yes, we all know the story of saving “Lucille” from a fire, but there was an interview that I read of his many years ago about how he came to develop that tone. He said something about trying to emulate all those guitar effects including the wah-wah pedal, by trilling extra hard the notes with his fingers on the fret board. But from the upbringing he had, he had no idea that the effects were coming from pedals and other electrical devices, so thinking one had to be one heck of a guitar genius to get that sound. So out of sheer, blessed ignorance B.B. created a style of playing that was second to none.
Today B.B. King has been hailed as one of the top ten greatest guitar players of all time. Unlike many of the traditional blues guitarists, BB had a good knowledge of chords that were not used in traditional 12 bar blues; chords like 7 flat 5 chords and chords that were leaning towards the jazz format. Although there are many songs that were hits, one of my favourites of his is How Blue Can You Get.
Upon B.B. King’s passing, we mark the end of “The Real Deal” orthodox blues, as we know it.
But while I am at it I would like to pay tribute to the other Kings in all of this. Least we not forget the efforts of Albert King (1923-1992) and Freddie King (1934-1976). The three Kings were gracious and majestic with their achievements. With none of them being related to each other, B.B., Albert and the youngster Freddie all played major parts in keeping the blues alive in a time where rock n’ roll was the order of the day.
Freddie, having the rockiest tone of the Kings was trying to develop a crossover sound, by having quite a few of his songs, played upbeat. One of my favourites of his was Big Legged Woman.
Albert, on the other hand, had lots of popularity among others such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Clapton, and the list goes on. Hence there have been albums and live performances with him featuring cats like these and visa versa. My favourite of his was The Sky is Crying, originally done by Elmore James.
By the way, I had the pleasure to meet Albert King in a hotel lobby, in New Jersey, somewhere back in 1989. I also had the pleasure of him taking a photo holding an ESP telecaster of mine. Now it beats me what I’ve done with the photo, although the guitar itself was stolen within a couple of years of that experience.
So B.B. King, The Thrill is Gone. No way bro, you will be forever in our hearts.
Steel Pulse will be appearing at your New York nightclub come August 6th. Our show will be livicated to you. All Hail, The King of the Blues.