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?