By Vernalee
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When we are “down in the dumps,” it is a natural tendency to “sing the blues” as they say. Truthfully, nobody could sing the blues like our legendary B.B. King whose voice left us early this morning! Dead at age 89, the King of the Blues is gone and we are “blue” with grief and sadness. For years, I have been a fan after being converted with King’s 1969 “The Thrill is gone!” Long before his worldwide fame, B.B. King played the “Chitlin Circuit” to packed houses in places like the After Hours Cafe in Hollandale, Mississippi. I have frequented a number of B.B. King’s concerts. When he performed, you witnessed two shows. One was on stage and one was in the audience. Somehow, B.B. could strike a musical note that reflected your life experiences. An icon, B.B. could make his shiny black guitar, which he affectionately called Lucille – talk! He utilized an unique “play and sing” style whereby his voice and guitar playing did not simultaneously coincide. When he played Lucille with closed eyes, he got into the groove and transported you with him. For certain, we “lived the life that he sung about in his songs.” A 15 times Grammy winner and recipient of numerous prestigious awards / accolades, his influence on music is as great as the Mississippi River is long! Restaurants and a museum showcased his honor. Notable guitarists – Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Steve Miller, Jimi Hendrix, Richie Sambora, Keith Richards, Lenny Kravitz ….were all influenced by B.B. King, a man who started off poor picking cotton in the Mississippi fields; a man who never forgot from whence he came. B. B. King brought his blues festivals regularly to Indianola, Mississippi. It was known as one of the few events that truly united Black and White folks. When B.B. came to Mississippi so came his friends like Eric Clapton. The Mississippi Delta “rocked” as the “good times rolled!” Years ago on one of our trips home, we went down Hwy 82. Startled, there was a huge billboard that pictured B. B. King and the words – “Welcome to Indianola, Home of B.B. King.” That was the first billboard denoting a Black man that I had ever seen in my native Mississippi. I thought … The south has changed! On May 25, 2014, B.B. King gave his final concert in Indianola. The admission’s price tag was FREE! The town loved B. B. King, as did the world! Those in Heaven will love him too!
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Photo credit: www.relix.com; www.mrjumbo.com