1: Who is B.B. King to You?

I was a teenager when I first heard the name B.B. King. It was in Israel, back in 1971. One day, all of a sudden, the media was all abuzz with the news: B.B. King is coming to Israel for a concert! I had never heard the name before, but the excitement was very clear. I paid attention. Listened to the music on the radio. I had always liked Blues and now I was suddenly treated to a wonderful serving of it. Listening to B.B. King back then, was a big factor in my love for Blues. I still remember that special short period. Short, yet enriching.

Fast forward to 2008. I was working for a company in California. There was this African American lady in my organization. She was a project manager contractor. Very lovely person. We would talk about the company, project management, etc. and sometimes just idle chat. Then one day, almost by accident, she told me she was B.B. King’s relative (I think niece). What a surprise! Here is somebody I had been working with for a while and I didn’t even know she could tell me things, so much more interesting than project management. Turns out they were close and she would help him a lot with managing his schedule, plans, etc. It was fascinating to hear first hand – from this unique point of view – about him. We talked more about his personality than his music. About his smile, graciousness, friendliness, being down to earth, non-patronizing. I could hear her voice soften when she spoke about him and got a first-hand feel for the person behind the brand.

And just a couple of days ago, I discovered another connection through my workplace. I found out that one of the employees in my company – Charles Sawyer – is King’s official biographer. They had been friends for many years and traveled and performed together. Sawyer spoke on Canadian TV after King’s death.

Those events are not anything big but they are my personal “encounters” with B.B King from unexpected angles.

So what were your encounters with the King of Blues? Who is B.B. King to you?

2 thoughts on “Who is B.B. King to You?

  1. Wonderful commentary to a great legend. I have always loved his music and he leaves behind a world made richer because of his music.

    I always thought that the story on how he arrived at the name he chose to give to all his guitars to be quite interesting.

    In the late 1940’s when B.B. King’s career was beginning, one of his tour stops was in Twist, Arkansas and one cold night in 1949, while B.B. King was performing, two men started fighting and knocked over a barrel of burning kerosene.

    During cold evenings in order to keep dance halls warm, kerosene was used for heat, and it wasn’t unusual in the 1940’s to place a large barrel half filled with kerosene in the middle of the room and then light it in order to warm the dance floor. The burning fuel spilled over the floor and everyone, including Mr. King, ran out the front door.

    Once outside, B.B. King realized that he’d left his only guitar, a Gibson acoustic, inside the burning building and without thinking rushed back into the blaze to save his guitar.

    The next morning he discovered that the two men had been fighting over a woman named Lucille. He named that guitar and all subsequent guitars he eventually owned after a woman he never met, “to remind me never to do a thing like that again.”

    Thank you again for your posting and I look forward to seeing more of your thoughts on the music world.

  2. Thank you for the lovely story. Again goes to show the person behind the professional. I wonder about that woman – Lucille. Did she know it all happened because of her? What did she think? What does she do today (if she is still alive)? Anybody knows?

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