B.B. King – The Best of the Bluesman

I have had a couple of people ask me for album recommendations for B.B. King.  From a discography of over 40 studio albums and a dozen or so live recordings, I think these 5 are quality representatives of a lifetime of recording:

  • Completely Well (1969) ABC Records
  • Live in Cook County Jail (1971) Geffen Records
  • Blues on the Bayou (1998) Geffen Records
  • Riding with the King (with Eric Clapton) (2000) Reprise Records
  • One Kind Favor (2008) Geffen Records

And now for some of the best B.B. King single tunes:

  • Three O’ Clock Blues (1991 Remaster)
  • The Thrill is Gone (1969)
  • When Love Comes to Town (with U2) (1988)
  • Why I Sing the Blues (1992)
  • Lucille (1968)

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.  And if you have a set of five favorites, just a leave a comment!

A Toast to B.B. King

When a bluesman passes, we mourn for just a bit and then celebrate their lives with song, the clinking of glasses, and the telling of stories amongst friends.

I first saw B.B. King at the age of sixteen back in 1969.  I attended a Johnny Winters concert and BB was the opening act.  I had no idea of who he was.  Dressed in a white shirt and black tie, he and his band came up on stage to the murmurs of the teenage crowd.  “Who is this dude?”  Once he started playing, the audience sat in stunned silence as BB began to make love to Lucille. It was an electrifying performance and by the third or fourth song, everyone was on their feet. I will never forget that night; I was introduced to the blues by the King himself!

The traveling bard telling stories and singing songs is one of the oldest art forms known to man.  B.B. told the story of the blues in concert a reported 15,000 times in his career. He rose from humble roots in the cotton fields in Mississippi and spread the music of the blues literally across the globe. And his legacy of songs will be sung long after we return to the dust from whence we came. If you have a story about B.B., share the memory with family and friends and us……

Rest in peace Riley King!  I count it a blessing to have lived during the era of the King of the Blues, though I wish you could have stayed just a little longer.

A Love Affair with the Blues

It all starts for me in the 1950’s with the emergence of the electric guitar and two gifted artists: Muddy Waters and B.B. King.  They were at the head of an entourage of talented players and singers who electrified and expanded the delta blues and exposed a generation of teenagers growing up in the late fifties and sixties to a sound that they embraced, massaged, and have passed onto an exciting new generation of blues artists.

Most, but not all, of the electric blues artists from the 1950’s  that I love were based in Chicago, a rough house city where there were opportunities not available In the segregated southern United States.  Many arrived by train and settled on the south side of the city, Muddy Waters among them. Sleeping on the couch of relatives, working during the day, and playing the blues at night and on weekends, he electrified audiences with his voice and his sensual style.  By the end of the decade of the fifties, he, along with Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter, reigned over Chicago and he was traveling to Europe to wow audiences on the continent.  The gigs in Europe featuring songs written by his one time bass guitarist, Willie Dixon, would eventually fire the imagination of Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Mick Jagger, among others, and the British Blues would be born.

While Muddy headed north, a young man from Mississippi stayed closer to home and made a name for himself and his guitar in Memphis, Tennessee. As a singer and DJ in Memphis in the late 1940’s, he picked up the nickname, the Beale Street Blues Boy, which was later shortened to B.B. Within years, he was to be acknowledged as the King of Blues, the one and only B.B. King. With his guitar, Lucille, he has become the living embodiment of the blues.  His distinctive voice and guitar playing style brought droves of new fans to the blues and he has continually strived to share his stage with promising talent.  Among them was an 11 year old boy who is my favorite modern blues guitarist and singer, Joe Bonamassa.

On this blog, I hope to expose readers to my favorite blues artists and to review blues music.  I also have a 24 hour blues stream where you can listen to selections from my collection of 40,000 or so blues tunes. ( http://www.s1.nexuscast.com:8043 ).  I am partial to what I term, the rockin’ blues, a style of blues that I was exposed to as a young man by Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix.  But I love all electric blues….the rhythm….the lyrics….the passion.  It is a life long love affair.