WBEZ | B.B. King http://www.wbez.org/tags/bb-king Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Remembering B.B. King's 'Live in Cook County Jail' http://www.wbez.org/news/music/remembering-bb-kings-live-cook-county-jail-112038 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" longdesc="The album cover for B.B. King's Live in Cook County Jail" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/BB-King-Jail.jpg" style="float: left;" title="" />B.B. King, who died late Thursday at the age of 89, was from Memphis by way of Mississippi. But Chicago played a special role in the blues guitarist&rsquo;s career.</p><p>He held countless concerts and recorded three seminal albums here including &ldquo;Live at the Regal Theater,&rdquo; &ldquo;Blues is King&rdquo; and the iconic &ldquo;Live in Cook County Jail.&rdquo;&nbsp; That album came from an unusual concert before a &#39;captive&#39; audience.</p><p>Recorded on a hot day in the fall of 1970, the setting was the yard at Cook County Jail. As King plugged in his famous guitar Lucille, around 2,000 inmates began cheering and jeering. The jeers weren&rsquo;t for King, but the Sheriff and Chief Judge at the time. This was back when Cook County was called &lsquo;the world&rsquo;s worst jail.&rsquo;</p><p>Winston Moore, the country&rsquo;s first African American warden, was brought in a couple years earlier to institute reforms. In his autobiography, King writes that it was Moore&rsquo;s idea for him to perform at the jail.</p><p>Ron Levy was an 18-year-old keyboardist touring with King&rsquo;s band then.</p><p>&ldquo;At first it was kind of exciting,&rdquo; remembered Levy. &ldquo;[But] once those iron doors slammed behind you it was like &lsquo;oh man.&rsquo; I had reservations about our decisions.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/bbkingjail.jpg" title="B.B. King (with guitar) performs for the inmates of Cook County Jail in Chicago, Wednesday, March 9, 1972." /></div><p>However, once the music started, he said all their fears fell away. Levy said the band played lots of jails and prisons back then &mdash; for a good reason.</p><p>&ldquo;If anybody had the blues, it was those people incarcerated. And B.B. really felt compassion for these guys,&rdquo; said Levy. &ldquo;And let&rsquo;s face it, a lot of the people who are incarcerated, they were in his audience at one point or another.&rdquo;</p><p>When it was released the next year, &ldquo;Live in Cook County Jail&rdquo; topped the R&amp;B charts for three straight weeks. Rolling Stone magazine includes it in their list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.</p><p>But for Ron Levy, King&rsquo;s legacy isn&rsquo;t about record sales or charts.</p><p>&ldquo;People don&rsquo;t realize B.B. King was much more than just a musician and entertainer. He&rsquo;s a human being, a humanitarian. He cared,&rdquo; said Levy. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s one of the really good guys. There aren&rsquo;t&nbsp; many like him in history. He&rsquo;s not just the king of the blues. He&rsquo;s one of the kings of humanity.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ reporter Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter @yolandanews</em><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 15 May 2015 11:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/music/remembering-bb-kings-live-cook-county-jail-112038 'King of the Blues' B.B. King dead at age 89 http://www.wbez.org/news/music/king-blues-bb-king-dead-age-89-112033 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/bbking.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>LAS VEGAS (AP) &mdash;€” B.B. King, whose scorching guitar licks and heartfelt vocals made him the idol of generations of musicians and fans while earning him the nickname King of the Blues, died late Thursday at home in Las Vegas. He was 89.</p><p>His attorney, Brent Bryson, told The Associated Press that King died peacefully in his sleep at 9:40 p.m. PDT. He said funeral arrangements were underway.</p><p>Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg confirmed the death.</p><p>King&#39;s eldest surviving daughter Shirley King of the Chicago area said she was upset that she didn&#39;t have a chance to see her father before he died.</p><p>Although he had continued to perform well into his 80s, the 15-time Grammy winner suffered from diabetes and had been in declining health during the past year. He collapsed during a concert in Chicago last October, later blaming dehydration and exhaustion. He had been in hospice care at his Las Vegas home.</p><p>For most of a career spanning nearly 70 years, Riley B. King was not only the undisputed king of the blues but a mentor to scores of guitarists, who included Eric Clapton, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall and Keith Richards. He recorded more than 50 albums and toured the world well into his 80s, often performing 250 or more concerts a year.</p><p>King played a Gibson guitar he affectionately called Lucille with a style that included beautifully crafted single-string runs punctuated by loud chords, subtle vibratos and bent notes.</p><p>The result could bring chills to an audience, no more so than when King used it to full effect on his signature song, &quot;The Thrill is Gone.&quot; He would make his guitar shout and cry in anguish as he told the tale of forsaken love, then end with a guttural shouting of the final lines: &quot;Now that it&#39;s all over, all I can do is wish you well.&quot;</p><p>His style was unusual. King didn&#39;t like to sing and play at the same time, so he developed a call-and-response between him and Lucille.</p><p>&quot;Sometimes I just think that there are more things to be said, to make the audience understand what I&#39;m trying to do more,&quot; King told The Associated Press in 2006. &quot;When I&#39;m singing, I don&#39;t want you to just hear the melody. I want you to relive the story, because most of the songs have pretty good storytelling.&quot;</p><p>A preacher uncle taught him to play, and he honed his technique in abject poverty in the Mississippi Delta, the birthplace of the blues.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;ve always tried to defend the idea that the blues doesn&#39;t have to be sung by a person who comes from Mississippi, as I did,&quot; he said in the 1988 book &quot;Off the Record: An Oral History of Popular Music.&quot;</p><p>&quot;People all over the world have problems,&quot; he said. &quot;And as long as people have problems, the blues can never die.&quot;</p><p>Fellow travelers who took King up on that theory included Clapton, the British-born blues-rocker who collaborated with him on &quot;Riding With the King,&quot; a best-seller that won a Grammy in 2000 for best traditional blues album.</p><p>Singer Smokey Robinson praised the music legend.</p><p>&quot;The world has physically lost not only one of the greatest musical people ever but one of the greatest people ever. Enjoy your eternity,&quot; Robinson said.</p><p>Still, the Delta&#39;s influence was undeniable. King began picking cotton on tenant farms around Indianola, Mississippi, before he was a teenager, being paid as little as 35 cents for every 100 pounds, and was still working off sharecropping debts after he got out of the Army during World War Two.</p><p>&quot;He goes back far enough to remember the sound of field hollers and the cornerstone blues figures, like Charley Patton and Robert Johnson,&quot; ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons once told Rolling Stone magazine.</p><p>King got his start in radio with a gospel quartet in Mississippi, but soon moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where a job as a disc jockey at WDIA gave him access to a wide range of recordings. He studied the great blues and jazz guitarists, including Django Reinhardt and T-Bone Walker, and played live music a few minutes each day as the &quot;Beale Street Blues Boy,&quot; later shortened to B.B.</p><p>Through his broadcasts and live performances, he quickly built up a following in the black community, and recorded his first R&amp;B hit, &quot;Three O&#39;Clock Blues,&quot; in 1951.</p><p>He began to break through to white audiences, particularly young rock fans, in the 1960s with albums like &quot;Live at the Regal,&quot; which would later be declared a historic sound recording worthy of preservation by the Library of Congress&#39; National Recording Registry.</p><p>He further expanded his audience with a 1968 appearance at the Newport Folk Festival and when he opened shows for the Rolling Stones in 1969.</p><p>King was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1984, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and received the Songwriters Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush, gave a guitar to Pope John Paul II and had President Barack Obama sing along to his &quot;Sweet Home Chicago.&quot;</p><p>Other Grammys included best male rhythm &#39;n&#39; blues performance in 1971 for &quot;The Thrill Is Gone,&quot; best ethnic or traditional recording in 1982 for &quot;There Must Be a Better World Somewhere&quot; and best traditional blues recording or album several times. His final Grammy came in 2009 for best blues album for &quot;One Kind Favor.&quot;</p><p>Through it all, King modestly insisted he was simply maintaining a tradition.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;m just one who carried the baton because it was started long before me,&quot; he told the AP in 2008.</p><p>Born Riley B. King on Sept. 16, 1925, on a tenant farm near Itta Bena, Mississippi, King was raised by his grandmother after his parents separated and his mother died. He worked as a sharecropper for five years in Kilmichael, an even smaller town, until his father found him and took him back to Indianola.</p><p>&quot;I was a regular hand when I was 7. I picked cotton. I drove tractors. Children grew up not thinking that this is what they must do. We thought this was the thing to do to help your family,&quot; he said.</p><p>When the weather was bad and he couldn&#39;t work in the cotton fields, he walked 10 miles to a one-room school before dropping out in the 10th grade.</p><p>After he broke through as a musician, it appeared King might never stop performing. When he wasn&#39;t recording, he toured the world relentlessly, playing 342 one-nighters in 1956. In 1989, he spent 300 days on the road. After he turned 80, he vowed he would cut back, and he did, somewhat, to about 100 shows a year.</p><p>He had 15 biological and adopted children. Family members say 11 survive.</p></p> Fri, 15 May 2015 07:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/music/king-blues-bb-king-dead-age-89-112033 All hail the King http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-09/all-hail-king-102376 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2576753432_9e733fa33b_z.jpg" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; float: left; " title="Buddy Guy, left and B.B. King in Chicago in 2008. (Flickr/Kees Wielemaker)" /><strong>Tony Sarabia:</strong></p><p>One of the most iconic names in music is B.B. King. &nbsp;The &lsquo;B.B&rsquo; by the way stands for Blues Boy, which was shortened from Beal Street Blues Boy. It was a self-titled nickname from his days as a singer and disc jockey in Memphis.</p><p>Now you may know only B.B.&rsquo;s biggest hit &ldquo;The Thrill is Gone&rdquo; but if you enjoy any number of blues or rock guitarists you are more familiar with Kings&rsquo; music than you think.</p><p>There are a good number of guitarists who owe a great debt to B.B.&rsquo;s style of guitar playing. Here&rsquo;s a list of those who have said B.B. influenced their playing: Jimi Hendrix, Mike Bloomfield, Elmore James, Jimmy Page, Buddy Guy and Duane Allman.</p><p>B.B. King was himself influenced by the great T-Bone Walker; the pioneer of the electric blues sound. King once said, &ldquo;Once I&#39;d heard him for the first time, I knew I&#39;d have to have an electric guitar myself. &#39;Had&#39; to have one, short of stealing!&quot;</p><p>King has said he was never good at playing chords and therefore put all his concentration on improvising, which served him and our ears quite well over the years.</p><p>He started out singing in the church as a youngster and not long after that debut he formed a gospel group. Then, he caught the blues bug. He eventually moved from his rural hometown of Kilmichael, Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee where he landed a job as a singer and disc jockey at a local radio station.</p><p>Since that first &lsquo;gig&rsquo; B.B. has played some of the biggest music halls around the world and recorded 43 studio albums, 33 lives albums and released 138 singles.</p><p>He&rsquo;s 87 years old now and has slowed considerably since those 265-days-out-of-the-year, one-night-stands of decades past. But with his iconic status firmly cemented, he deserves a break. Happy Birthday Riley &lsquo;B.B&rsquo; King.</p><p>The guitar wielding preacher at King&rsquo;s childhood church, The Church of God in Christ, once told a young Riley that the guitar is a precious instrument, another way to express God&rsquo;s love. Well King sure was expressing the love on the album <strong><em>B.B. King Sings Spirituals</em></strong> from 1959.</p><p>Why King recorded so little gospel music in his long career remains a mystery given that gospel was his starting point. Luckily he released this one, his fourth album. This is a program of high energy gospel numbers mostly by the father of gospel, Thomas Dorsey<strong>. &quot;Army of the Lord&quot;</strong> is a traditional gospel tune and a tour de force and King&rsquo;s powerful throaty delivery is a prefect recruiting tool. It&rsquo;s a high powered number with organ, drums, trumpet, of course Lucille and the backing of L.A.&rsquo;s The Charioteers and the Southern California Community Choir.</p><p>There&rsquo;s no arguing that B.B.&rsquo;s album<em> Live at the Regal</em> is the essential example of a B.B. King on stage, but 1971&rsquo;s<strong><em> Live in Cook County Jail</em></strong> is certainly a strong contender for that spot. Here&rsquo;s King seems to squeeze out even more soul, grit and emotion than his Regal performance; maybe it was the venue.<strong> &quot;How Blue Can You Get?&quot;</strong> kicks off with one of those classic King solos full of single guitar lines that are suspended and bent for greater effect.</p><p>I wanted to include this jump blues <strong>&quot;Don&rsquo;t Leave Me Baby&quot; </strong>from 1946 to provide a clear line from <strong>T-Bone Walker</strong> to B.B. King, who said once he heard T Bone play he just knew he had to have an electric guitar. We&rsquo;re sure glad you felt that way B.B.</p><p style="text-align: center; "><iframe frameborder="0" height="250" src="https://rd.io/i/QX9-5DNNrAQ" width="500"></iframe></p><p><strong>Richard Steele:</strong></p><p>Riley B. King&rsquo;s life started on a cotton plantation in Mississippi in 1925. He picked up the name B.B. King as a result of his stint as a Memphis deejay in the late 1940s when his radio name was &ldquo;Blues Boy King.&rdquo; That was shortened to B.B. King and the rest is history.</p><p>He cut his first blues recording in 1949, and famously performed more than 300 shows annually for years. His best-selling recording was &ldquo;The Thrill Is Gone,&rdquo; which turned out to be a huge crossover record, something that&rsquo;s rare for a blues artist. In 1979, this vocalist/guitarist became one of the first bluesmen to ever tour the Soviet Union. King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.&nbsp;</p><p>B.B. King did a stellar performance at Chicago&rsquo;s Regal Theater in 1964. The recording of this show became a best-selling album called <em><strong>B.B. King Live at The Regal</strong>. </em>Music critics consider it to be one of his best efforts. He was in great voice, and considering the lively response from the audience, he totally connected with them. One of the best examples of that is the track called <strong>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s My Own Fault.&rdquo;</strong> Many artists have cited this album as one of the finest examples of how to interact with a live audience while maintaining the highest level of musicianship needed for a live recording.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/3236668873_ecde35ca10_z.jpg" style="float: right; height: 386px; width: 300px; " title="LaVern Baker (Flickr/bunky's pickle)" />The late <strong>LaVern Baker</strong> was a native Chicagoan who became a major part of the burgeoning R&amp;B sound of the 1950s. She moved to Detroit while she was still a teenager and that&rsquo;s where she honed her talent as an R&amp;B vocalist. &nbsp;She will always be remembered for her best-selling recording of that era called &ldquo;Tweedle Dee.&rdquo; Later in her career, she did a phenomenal job on one of the hit tunes written and first recorded by B.B. King. Baker does a slow, sensuous version of <strong>&ldquo;Rock Me Baby.&rdquo;</strong> &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>It&rsquo;s always interesting to hear early work by a recording artist and note the changes that come later with more experience and maturity. In the case of B.B. King, when you listen to this 1956 recording, he seems to have developed those qualities pretty quickly. King is heard here with a full ensemble. While the style is definitely 1950s, his blues sensibility was as strong then as it is now. This is B.B. King doing <strong>&ldquo;Dark Is the Night.&rdquo;</strong> &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Bobby Blue Bland </strong>was born five years after B.B. King, but they formed a friendship and musical bond that would last a lifetime. Bland came to Memphis when he was 17 and made a living working in a garage while at the same time grooming his very mellow voice by singing gospel on the weekends. Eventually he got to know several up-and-coming blues greats by finding a way to be in their employ. At one point, he was a sometime chauffeur/bus driver for B.B. King and a valet for blues master Junior Parker.</p><p>Bland&rsquo;s career blossomed, and he later recorded more than 50 singles that made the top 40 on the R&amp;B chart. At one point, he recorded a dozen hits in a row, and 11 of them made the top 10. By 1974, both artists were at the top of their game, so they recorded a live album together. It did so well they did another one two years later at the Coconut Grove in L.A. The second one was called <em><strong>Bobby &ldquo;Blue&rdquo; Bland and B.B. King, Together Again Live</strong>.</em> Bland had previously recorded a hit version of <strong>&ldquo;Stormy Monday,&rdquo;</strong> but his duet with B.B. King on this live recording took it to the next level.</p></p> Thu, 13 Sep 2012 09:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-09/all-hail-king-102376