The King’s Reign
What: B.B. King
When: Sat., Jan. 11th • 8 p.m.
Where: Odell Williamson Auditorium
50 College Rd., Bolivia
The name “B.B. King” will resonate with the world for an eon. Its owner, now 88, has already proven himself to be the “King of the Blues.” He’s a master of the wailing guitar, and even though kids in generations to come may not know his exact sound, they will surely recognize his name.
King’s voice is like a scruffy street dog. Rough and grungy, it’s sometimes mean and cold. But it’s seen a lot of ache—or at least sings about it—and there is an omnipotent depth unparalleled by many artists of today.
In blues, the instruments are what draws us in. For King, his guitar screams and cries in glorious vibrato as its strings are manipulated in maniacal, unpredictable ways. Like a ska singer, the blues guitar twists and bounds toward every direction; listeners cannot guess what the next note will be. Yet every movement is a beautiful stretch of the player’s soul, and every sound makes a puppet of our hearts.
In 1925, B.B. King was born in Mississippi. On street corners he busked—many nights in more than one town. In his early 20’s, he hitchhiked to Memphis, TN, a city where blues and rock ‘n’ roll collided. Many great musicians were born in the area: Aretha Franklin, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. Jones, and more. Others, like King, succumb to the gravitational pull of the city’s thriving music scene. W.C. Handy, the “Father of the Blues” relocated there in the early 1900s, helping solidify the city’s hold on such soulful tunes and paving the way for artists like King.
In 1948, King performed on a popular West Memphis radio program, which helped him gain access to a broader audience and book more shows. By 1952, the musician had his first number-one hit, “Three O’Clock Blues.” Four years later, King and his band toured 342 stops in one year alone, from small-town juke joints to symphony concert halls and universities. In the blues’ heyday, King found fans most any place.
Having recorded over 50 albums since his humble curbside start, King will continue to garner fans long after he leaves this earth. He is a member of the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award, and he’s received honorary doctorates from six universities.
A biography and an autobiography, titled “The Arrival of B.B. King” and “Blues All Around Me” respectively, stand as a testament to King’s reign through 1996. Yet as he continues to tour an average of 250 concerts per year, one could suspect there is another lifetime of liner notes to be published again.