Cedar Rapids, Iowa ( November 18, 2012)
Riley B. King began his career as a disc jockey in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was dubbed “the Beale Street Blues Boy.” That nickname was soon shortened to “B.B.” King played more than 250 concerts per year well into his 70’s. In his 80’s, the number of tour dates the guitarist booked limited. His health had been deteriorating. In October 2014, the 89-year old fell onstage during a performance at Chicago’s House of Blues and cancelled several upcoming gigs. In a statement issued on his web site after the fall, it said the singer had been “diagnosed with dehydration and suffering from exhaustion. B.B. King died in his sleep on May 14, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada, leaving behind an enduring musical legacy.
BB King was 87 when he played the inaugural concert at the newly remodeled Paramount Theatre.
I had seen BB King several times during the last twenty years, but his 11.18.12 show is my most memorable. From the moment, he walked on stage to the sold out theatre I was in awe of his presence. Unlike the negative press surrounding his music, it was not evident to my ears. When his 87-year-old fingers embraced the legendary “Lucille” chills shot up my back. His soulful playing was unlike any I have had heard in recent memory. His version of “Key to the Highway” was unparalleled even by the likes of Eric Clapton and Duane Allman. Unfortunately, previous reviews of BB’s shows finally emerged. When he launched into “You Are My Sunshine” he drifted away from the band and focused intently on the fans directly in front of him and random stories began. Periodically he flirted with King classics only to return to what he loved the most, his fans. The crowd was in the palm of his weathered hands. Some stood in the aisles and danced as he interacted with fans. Several times his orchestra leader attempted to get BB to call it a night, but BB stayed on stage signing autographs, handing out guitar picks.
BB King is more than an iconic blues legend; he is the blues, period