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  Sunday, September 01, 2002

Ridin' With the King

I'm in the supermarket and the clerk looks over his shoulder as he's bagging and says "Looks like rain."
"It can't rain," I said, "I'm supposed to go to a live concert tonight."
"You're not going to see that (group of very alternative bands I've never heard of) concert, are you?"
"I'm going to see the King. B.B. King" I said.
He gave me a look as if to say "why would anyone go see a bunch of old guys playing the...whatever it is they play."

Son, sit down here, and listen to what this old man has to say.

Last night, I saw the blues, and it was a joyful thing. Anyone who wants to know about rock and roll needs to know about the blues. You may be disbelieving me now, but sit down in that chair right there, son, and let me school ya, is what I think BB would say).

Think of it this way: Imagine being a teenager, and asking your peers for advice about deep topics in life. Back then your friends seemed wise, but we all know that when we're in our teenage years we're basically full of shit.
Ask your parents for advice. They'll tell you about the way they perceive life--the way they see it, and they way they believe you see it. But they raised you, and even though they love you, there are years of baggage between you that influence what you hear, and what they say. 
Then go
ask your grandparents or other wise old folk you know, and you'll get stories that have humor, depth, warmth, and enough perspective, if you're lucky. And they're not afraid to ruffle your feathers or call you an idiot, if that's what you need to be called.

Listening to the latest pop bands, or even the "tough alternative" stuff doesn't give you perspective. Trying to find out about life from "not a girl, not yet a woman" ain't gonna cut it.And frankly, when it comes to the current rock bands, you don't know why they sound the way they sound. They have influences, but their influences have influences too.

So you go back in your record collection, or your CDs. But a lot of 70's and 80's rock doesn't tell you the story either.

But go back to the grandparents of rock and roll, and baby you hear the stories the way they were told the first time, and with enough perspective and love to make you feel it too.

Mick and Keith couldn't strut onto the stage talking about Satisfaction if they hadn't heard the blues. Clapton could not have gotten Creamy without listening to folks like John Lee Hooker (who compliments Clapton in this interview). The Beatles first disks are full of cuts that have blues influence. It's their musical parent's influence that we hear when we turn on the Kinks, um, oops, the Strokes singing "Hard to Explain" (for example).

Enough of a lecture. We arrived last night to the sound of - man, who is that old man jamming? It must be John Mayall! The man played piano then blues harp then guitar in a quick succession. And sounded masterful on each one. The Fabulous Thunderbirds were next on stage. Lead singer and Harp player Kim Wilson kicked serious butt with a 10 count it 10 minute solo that blew the roof off the house. Susan Teceschi was a little disappointing after this review (from her website):

With a voice that is frequently compared with Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt and Etta James, and a guitar style influenced by Johnny Guitar Watson, Magic Sam and Freddie King. Susan has taken her influences and sculpted them into a style all her own...

While very talented, she did not seem to make a connection with the crowd. She had the voice and she had the style, but she wasn't selling last night, for some reason.

Then came the big daddy. BB's band came out, started jamming, and everyone did a solo before he even took the stage. I think this style is kind of like the way some rappers in the "Old School" would come out and trash all the other DJs, show off and prove their credibility. These guys were basically out there solo playing to say "see, I'm good enough to ride with the King." And shit, so they were.

BB - well he had to sit in a chair. And his comment was "Some of you out there (he said in a mocking voice) must be saying "I can't believe that old man can't even stand up and play." Well, I'm 76, I've got bad knees, and I've earned the right to sit here in this chair." And he did earn every minute of it. Bad knees, maybe, but still a great story teller, whether in a monolog, singing the blues, or letting Lucille* talk for him. The notes sound clean, the band sounds cool and hot, and the man has still got it.

So, Before I give you the blues by making this lecture too long, son, I'm gonna retire to the bedroom and spend some time with my woman. Cause as long as I'm paying the bills, I'm paying the cost to be the boss. And you can quote me on long as you use the name B.B. King.


In the mid-1950's, while B.B. was performing at a dance in Twist, Arkansas, a few fans became unruly. Two men got into a fight and knocked over a kerosene stove, setting fire to the hall. B.B. raced outdoors to safety with everyone else, then realized that he left his beloved $30 acoustic guitar inside, so he rushed back inside the burning building to retrieve it, narrowly escaping death. When he later found out that the fight had been over a woman named Lucille, he decided to give the name to his guitar. Each one of B.B.'s guitars since that time has been called Lucille. -- from Hip Online.

9:21:16 PM  comment []    

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