Sunday evening, February 1964. My world view changed. The Beatles opened up a passion in me that continues to this day.
Before school was out that year I was part of a band called the Radiants. We were musicians. I was a guitar player who played bass in our band because no one else would. Dare I compare myself to Paul? No, that would be very cheeky indeed.
As a teenage guitar player I wanted to be a rock star. We all did. You couldn’t swing a dead accordion without hitting a rock and roll group starting up in San Diego. It was … how should I put it … cool … very cool.
The very next year, my rock guitar ambitions were hijacked by the son of sharecroppers from Mississippi. He was born Riley Ben King but was nicknamed Blues Boy and later became King of Blues.
There was something about BB’s music that rang true to this middle-class, white, city boy. There was simplicity. There was feeling. There was storytelling. There was life. I was wreaked; still am.
Today whenever I pick up a guitar I instinctively find some blues patterns to play. It’s home. It’s true. It’s beautiful.
Just last week BB King left us at age 89. He is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He received 15 Grammys. BB developed diabetes and in his last years he had to sit in a chair whenever he played … but boy did he play! And all his friends wanted to play with him.
Here are 3 Things I learned from BB King & Lucille, his faithful guitar
1. Find your voice
Within the first bar of “The Thrill is Gone” you know who is playing. You could always tell when it was BB & Lucille together.
From his 1st album, “Singin’ the Blues” in 1956 to his last, “Live at the Royal Albert Hall” in 2012 BB’s music was his and we knew it.
For us creatives, BB taught us to FIND OUR OWN VOICE.
2. You don’t have to do everything
As a guitar player, BB was a soloist. He let the rest of the band fill in while he sang and caressed Lucille into joining him.
I heard a quick conversation between BB and Bono. Bono had written a song for BB and him to sing and play together. As they were figuring out how they were going to perform this new song BB tells Bono, “I never did learn how to play chords.”
I don’t think any of us knew or cared. He stirred us without chords.
For us creatives, BB taught us WE DON’T HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING.
3. Enjoy riding with your friends
Everyone wanted to play with BB. Everyone wanted to go on a ride with the King of the Blues. And it was great to watch. Seeing superstar guitarist exchange those knowing smiles on stage with BB said it all. And why not? They were making music with BB King!
BB has collaborated with many other guitarists to produce great albums but my favorite is the one he did with Eric Clapton in 2000, “Riding with the King.” Could there be a better title?
For us creatives, BB taught us to ENJOY RIDING WITH YOUR FRIENDS.
We are going to miss BB & Lucille. Words are not always easy to find when expressing a loss like this.
The very next day after BB’s exit from life’s stage, his friend and fellow rider, Eric Clapton, shared this open video with us.
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I’m Preston McCracken, join me in ENLARGING OUR LIVES.