Monday, 18 May 2015

RIP B.B King

The Mississippi maestro and Lucille have fallen quiet, but that piercing sting from that black Gibson will always live on. The King of Beale Street will never lie still, he was the heartbeat of a city and he put Memphis blues on the map. There were many peaks, many stand out career moments, his early records were a masterclass in intensity and downright low down blues. The classic late night refrain of 3 O'Clock Blues, "3 o'clock in the morning, can't even close my eyes, I can't find my baby and I can't be satisfied." B.B made it burn low and slow and then Lucille did the rest a staccato burst of notes that woke a generation of musicians to come.

B.B was a true pioneer rather than stay in one style he pushed the boundaries, Everyday I Have The Blues was a rhythm and blues classic with a big band pushing things along. Sweet Little Angel released in the halcyon days of rock and roll is pure stone classic R&B, the greasy horns B.B firing off jagged notes in every direction. It was in the live setting that B.B set himself apart from his contemporaries his classic live album Live At The Regal recorded at the venerable Chicago venue was deeply influential on a generation of musicians starting to look at the blues as a form of musical expression that could reach a large audience. For me the song that truly captures B.B in full flight has an interesting story.

B.B was the support act for The Rolling Stones on their 1969 U.S tour and played at Madison Square Gardens where most of the material for their live Get Yer Ya Ya's out album was recorded. Probably ten years ago a deluxe vinyl set was issued featuring everything the Stones cut during those shows including the sets from B.B and openers Ike And Tina Turner. Well suffice to say you can see why the Stones set was so good considering the acts that opened the show. I heard B.B's set at Greville Records one day, the owner Warwick pretty much deaf as a result of his days as a roadie during the glory years of Oz rock, had the album on full bore. The sound was amazing, the bass was literally moving the floor boards and Warwick as usual seated in the corner grooving away to B.B giving a history of what makes the blues. He sang of the reasons, coming over on a ship, living amongst the rodents in the tenements etc, it's a powerful tune.

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