Thursday, April 16, 2015

"Live by Request" - B.B. King (2003)

If you have never seen BB King live, then this is as good as it gets!

The nickname "B.B." - which is short for "Blues Boy" - was first bestowed upon him in Memphis on Beale Street. It stuck. And the sound that he created has spawned a generation of guitarists, some equal to, and some even surpassing, this legendary musician.

This is a very personal performance, one in which B.B. seems a little nervous as he gets ready to field requests for any one of the hundreds of songs he has written and recorded over the past 60 years. And aside from the music, the stories he relates between phone calls and requests are gems; some of which appeared in his autobiography, and some that didn't.

The story of his guitar, named Lucille (he is currently on Lucille 18, though this film from 2003 has him playing Lucille 16) began in 1949 in a town called Twist, Arkansas. It was in a "juke joint", with a 55 gallon drum filled halfway with kerosene for heat. Two guys fighting over a woman knocked it over, burning the place down. BB ran back to get his guitar, (he claims to have been the first one out the door) and almost got killed. The next day he found out the 2 guys were fighting over a woman named Lucille, and so he named his guitar for her, as a reminder to never do that again!

Between each number he explores the impact that his music has had upon 3 generations, with particular emphasis on "The Thrill Is Gone" in 1969, which was on my first B.B. King album. That was the song that opened up the whole world to him, thanks in part to the "British Invasion", which had its roots in American rhythm and blues. Due to that influence, he went on his first world tour in 1970. And he hasn't stopped since.

Jeff Beck takes stage with B.B. for 2 numbers, "Rock Me Baby" and "Key to the Highway", and also helps him close the show with "The Cost to Be the Boss." With his inimitable style of playing, he is proof of the impact that B.B. King has had on so many musicians over the years, and by extension, us.

Calls for requests came from everywhere! All over America, North and South, even as far away as Argentina. One man called, relating how he met his wife 25 years ago at a B.B. King concert. In between playing and taking requests, B.B. also offered his advice on going to school, graduating, majoring in something that you like to do, while learning something you can make a living at. He also advises that young folks stay single until they're 40.

B.B. even had a story to tell about meeting Pope John Paul II, he gave him a guitar as a gift. Though you are never to directly touch the Pope, instead of handing the guitar to the Pope's aides, he offered it directly to the Pope, who took it. He was strumming it when B.B. left.

Packed with some of the best songs he has ever done, and playing with his long time band, B.B., who had a real problem playing during the '90's due to the constant pricking of his fingers to monitor his diabetes, has never sounded better.

This DVD came to me through the courtesy of George Peterson, one of the librarians at the Cornelius branch of the Mecklenburg County Public Library. We are both Buddy Guy fans and he bought this DVD in from his personal collection for me to see. That's what I love about the libraries; not only are they are a refuge for the soul, but also a place where ideas are exchanged and friendships are formed.

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