I guess when you’ve become an icon, you get the big news. CBC Newsworld was full of B.B. King’s passing, and a lot of it was truly gag-worthy as the level of faux reverence, long faces and script-reading ratcheted up to full stun, including touching testimonials from the likes of Kelly Clarkson. (?) Really? Nice words from Eric Clapton via Skype, though.
I went to see What’s New, Pussycat? with a Bill, Stella and Leah when it was a new movie. Leah’s mother drove us, then left us to hang out for a second showing of the movie, meaning that we were walking east on Geary Blvd. late at night on our way back to Stella’s place on Hayes around Steiner before Bill and I would turn north on Divisadero to get back to my place. It was after two when we got to the turn on Divisadero, and, being fitted, we were both hungry, so we went into this burger and barbecue place, the only thing open. We must have looked like the proverbial deer in the headlights as the reception from the all-black crowd was not particularly welcoming with an added tinge of WTF at the sight of two white boys somewhat off course.
Sensing a certain hostility, we ordered burgers to go, but in the wait, the jukebox was going full-bore and it was King playing, though it took me a couple of days after to run down the song, hence the artist. This was something of a revelation for a couple of whippersnappers steeped in Beach Boys, Beatles and Stones. I had the pleasure of seeing King live on a couple of occasions while still living in the Bay Area, the whole routine where the band would come out and do a number or two before bringing King on stage with flourish and fanfare, and he played from a fairly well-stocked catalogue with panache and freshness that belied the several hundred dates he was playing each year. The last time I saw him in the Bay Area was at Winterland (I think) and he still did some of the same routine, but he seemed much more relaxed and the connection to the crowd was much more direct. He mentioned in his inter-song patter that he’d been listening to some jazz and proceeded to ruff up some Django on the spot.
That December, Magic Sam died of a heart attack at 32, and I was sad. He went early and left a lot of possible career on the table. If you get a chance, check out King’s appearances at the Crossroads Festival to get a feel for the decline that must have been difficult for the man. Noting his passing is fine, but I know I’ll just keep on celebrating the music from the early jump stuff à la Louis Jordan right through duets with EC.
Let’s see, who’s next?