I usually reserve Mondays to look at near music and audio gear, but I think it's important to recognize an event that has shook the music world.
B.B. King passed away last week and while his millions of fans morn, the guitar world cries even louder. There have been many great and influential blues guitarists over the last 60 years or so, but none has risen to the level of Riley B. “Blues Boy” King.
While it may be true that 1965’s Live At The Regal album was the main wake-up call for his British progeny like Eric Clapton and Peter Green, who then passed it back to a new generation of guitar players in the States, to gauge his influence just on that record is to do a great man a disservice. B.B. had many lesser hits by that time and each one of them had guitarists crowded around a record player trying to cop his trademark licks. Those licks may not have been B.B,’s exclusive domain, having learned at the feet of T-Bone Walker, but he made them his own with his easily recognizable left-hand trill, the vibrato that so many a young would-be guitar god tried to emulate.
Although “The Thrill Is Gone,” his 1970 hit single, may have been his most identifiable song, the fact of the matter is that B.B. made many landmark recordings during his long career, most of the them live. Live At The Cook County Jail and Live In Japan, both from 1971, Live In Africa in 1974 (which was only released on 1991), even the “When Love Comes To Town” duet with U2 from their Rattle And Hum motion picture show B.B. in some of his best moments.
My favorite though is the little-seen Cafe Au Go Go video (seen below) from 1968 when B.B. was perhaps at his peak. For those that were used to seeing The King sitting during his performances in his latter years, this was a revelation. Commanding the stage as only one of the greats can, his voice and guitar roar in a way that happens on those rare and fleeting occasions when the muse is in the air. The footage is raw, grainy and sometimes out of focus, but it’s a chance to see the man at what may be his best.
We’re all lucky that B.B. was recognized for his greatness so early in his long life (if you can say mid-40’s is early), since there is so much of his career that has been documented since. Even though the world of guitar morns today, we can rest assured that Riley B. King will continue to influence and inspire guitar players for generations to come. May your next journey be filled with love and music, B.B. (Originally posted on Forbes).