BB King died on May 14. I really can’t believe he’s gone.
How Blue Can You Get was one of his signature songs. This recording from September 10, 1970, off BB King Live in Cook County Jail from 1971 (probably one of my top three favorite albums of all time) remains to me, the best.
Come on-put aside your busy day, heap of chores or work, and spend five minutes convening with the blues…
From Lucille’s muttering at .46 to that sustain at 2.22, I mean wow. Wow wow wow. It is the whole package.
Then take the plunge into blues brilliance after BB belts out, “I gave you seven children, and now you want to give them back”. Not to mention that attitude. He was the real deal.
I get waves of chills from this recording.
But it’s the guitar work; it is pure perfection. In those first few minutes, the conversation is so real that the audience reacts to the growls, the murmurs and whines of the Gibson under BB’s tender, and sometimes raw attention.
I am sharing this today because, after I can’t tell you how many years, I have another copy of the album, and I’ve played the heck out of it all day. It makes me extremely happy.
I worked security on stage at one of BB’s concerts in the late ’80s when I was a college student. I was going mad in the wings and he called to one of the fellows on stage, “Give that little lady a pick!”
He made a practice of tossing those little bits of plastic with a gold ‘BB’ out to the audience. I still have mine.
To see the man himself, here is a film shot at New York’s Sing Sing Prison in 1972. It’s pretty fabulous, but oh-so much more gentle on Lucille.
Watch those hands. We’ve lost a treasure.
-The featured image up top is BB King at Cook County Prison during the concert in 1970.