I got a text a little while ago that BB King has passed. I am sitting here crying at the loss, and grateful for all that he meant. I am also writing this without a net, or editor, but I want to take a little bit of a free moment in the middle of the night.
A lifetime ago I worked in the blues music world. I was a loud noise on a regional basis, but in the scope of things I was not anyone. BB King was BB King, the King. The unquestioned, hands down, GREATEST. I was in Memphis one week, and I knew he was there. This was before social media, but I had enough connections to know when BB was going to be alone in a room, and I finagled my way in and met him.
A mutual friend introduced us, and it was a safe nonpublic moment for the greatest blues player of all time, and we sat and talked for about an hour. I went to his show that night, and was lucky enough to watch in the wings. This was a long time ago, before he got sick. After the show we exchanged information, and I floated home with the knowledge that I had BB Kings phone number, and he had mine.
Months passed, and I got back to my life. Then Crossroads Guitar Fest happened, and BB came (but did not play), and I was again lucky enough to spend a little bit of time with him there.
Then years passed, and Jim O’Connell at the Grand Theatre booked him for a show, and I was over the moon that the greatest blues musician of all time was going to be in Wausau.
The band and BB showed up, stayed at a local hotel. And I sat at Chang Garden all day. I just wanted to hover around downtown, in hopes of seeing him. And hoping to catch a chance to say hello. Much to my surprise my phone rang, and it was his road manager. We talked for a moment, and he asked me to come by. I did, and shared another short time with BB. Mostly we talked about the new ipod that had just come out.
I have been blessed to see a few bands from the wings of the Grand. Aretha Franklin, Joe Bonamassa, and BB King. Nothing compares to the grandness of BB King. Not even watching Aretha warm up. BB King is the greatest of all time, and to be in proximity to that is something that you do not do often.
He played, and played, and told stories, and made everyone laugh and sing and dance. He was amazing, even at his age.
Tonight the world lost something amazing. The unquestioned greatest, the KING, the all time best ever. NO ONE BETTER. No one did more, no one will do more. BB King changed the world, he shook the fiber of Earth, and the Earth was forever changed. He came from where he came from, and was the greatest musical ambassador ever imagined.
And he played in Wausau. And in so many way he touched my life.
And he played in Wausau.
RIP BB King.
My main man Pat Peckham who stood with me in the wings reminded me that I did not clap the whole time. That is true. I have never applauded for BB King. I have always been too (insert some variant of overwhelmed) in his presence. He was special, and filled my soul each and every time.