I always loved the blues. And I always worshiped the one and only King of the Blues, B.B. King. His death on May 15 bereaved and saddened us all. Somehow we felt that the Blues Boy who brought the Delta Blues to the world stage would always be there, bent over his beloved full bodied Gibson guitar, Lucille, crooning to her, and scorching our souls with his searing, stinging chords, as he moaned and roared that The Thrill is Gone:
The thrill is gone
The thrill is gone away
The thrill is gone baby
The thrill is gone away
You know you done me wrong baby
And you'll be sorry someday B.B.King
B.B. loved to tell the story of how his guitars got the name Lucille. He was playing in a joint in Twist, Arkansas when two guys got into a fight over a woman named Lucille. One of them lit the place on fire with a kerosene stove and B.B. rushed back into the burning building to save his $30 guitar that he named Lucille after his foolhardy act, and the woman who sparked the flames. B.B. was larger than life. He claimed to have fathered fifteen children from fifteen women, although only eleven have laid claim to the honor. Riley R. King loved women and sang songs of love and lust and longing. Renamed B.B. after the Blues Boy he became, he influenced a new generation of guitarists like Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield and Buddy Guy; from New York and Chicago blues clubs to the Fillmore in San Francisco. .
My partners and I were fortunate enough to be involved with music created by B.B. King. He composed and performed the score for John Henry, a Rabbit Ears Production, narrated by Denzel Washington. You could see that strapping young giant who built the railroad in B.B.'s quitar notes which spoke volumes and told stories. We produced a TV series on diabetes and admired B.B.'s inspiring attitude. He was open about his Type 2 diabetes which led to the strokes combined with exhaustion that were the cause of his death. Unlike many people who suffer from diabetes, B.B. was candid about it, and talked about the changes you need to make to survive.
B.B.'s life was full of highs and lows. He won 15 Grammy Awards, was inducted in to the Rock and Roll and Blues Hall of Fames, and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. There were also tough decades when the blues were out of favor. But B.B. never stopped, giving more than 15,000 shows. He played in joints, clubs, prisons, arenas, and toured right up until last October. B.B. died in his sleep at 89. Does it get any better, other than to go out singing? As B.B. says in Every Day I Have the Blues:
I'm gonna pack my suitcase, move on down the line
Yes I'm gonna pack my suitcase, move on down the line
Where there ain't nobody worried
And there ain't nobody crying
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