May 152015
 

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  18 Responses to “More Than the Thrill Is Gone for Blues Legend B.B. King”

  1. Suburban kid

    How dare you insult the memory of the newly departed legend with your ill-informed…uh…wait….

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. I wanted to love B.B. King, but for me the biggest “thrill” of his live performance I saw back around 1980 was when he introduced Muddy Waters, who didn’t even play, just came out and waved.

    B.B. King was likeable, a great gentle man (it seemed like), but I like my blues raw and dirty not smooth and clean. He always seemed like he should go into the Soul business, or the Jazz business — he had quite a big band when I saw him, for example.

    His music isn’t bad, and I enjoy the full length of The Thrill is Gone and not just two bars, but that’s about it. I’m glad he got to live as long as he did and that he is being remembered so fondly.

  2. tonyola

    I think “The Thrill Is Gone” is a good song, but I follow the others here in that my appreciation of BB is limited. I saw him a couple of times at freebie concerts in the ’70s. His blues was mostly unchallenging and inoffensive – fine for taking a date who might be turned off at something rawer and raunchier. It was sort of like dipping a toe in cold water without ever having to plunge in. Oh well, he had a long and illustrious career and may he rest in peace.

  3. misterioso

    Well, I always figured that B.B. King was blues for white folks who don’t really like blues music. But I always had a suspicion that there must be stuff back at the outset of his career that would justify B.B.’s later, seemingly unwarranted Blues King status. Having in recent years explored his early recordings, my opinion has indeed mellowed some: the early records are pretty solid sounding R &B and electric blues. But he’s not really in a class (to my ears) with Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, T-Bone Walker, and others. But he was also a generation younger. I’m prepared to cut him a little more slack than I once would have, even if he is “B-list” blues in my book.

  4. 2000 Man

    I had ribs at his place in Memphis and thoroughly enjoyed every minute I spent in that place. I even saw an old blind guy play the blues while I was eating my lunch in there, and I thought, “Wow. This really happens!”

    Musically though, I just don’t really get The Blues very well. I like them better than jazz, but I’d still rather hear some Rock band throw a blues song or two on an album than actually listen to some Blues. BB seemed like the Robert Cray kind of blues to me. Real nice and clean and really well produced. A lot of people really love that super professional sound and good for them, but I just don’t really need it.

    Like I said though, I had a really great time at his place. Great food, cold beer, really nice people and he had really great live blues playing in there all day. So if that’s the kind of bar he ran, he must have been a swell guy and it’s a shame to see him move on.

  5. This may be a little off topic, but why does the “He Was a Great Man” gravedigger appear to be digging in the nude with the exception of some casual slip-ons.

    About B.B.King, I suspect he was actually more popular with actual Black Blues fans who I get the impression value a professionalism over authenticity. Just sayin…

    • How was he not authentic? It’s not like he was white ‘cos we know white people can’t play the blues. And you gotta suffer if you wanna sing the blues and he did suffer.

      Who is authentic? Stevie Ray Vaughn?

      • I wasn’t talking about authentic authenticity; I was talking about the patina of authenticity that comes from adherence to stereotypes that outsiders (like us) often use to judge authenticity. I knew when I hit send that it read wrong but I figured I’d leave it hanging out there like a bad breaking ball so someone could take a swing at it. Thanks, pal.

    • misterioso

      Myself, I make no claim that he was less authentic than some of the other blues artists I referenced above. Just that he was not as good.

  6. I keep meaning to listen to some of his early, early stuff, but I haven’t had the inspiration yet. I tend to like my blues dirtier too. Guys like Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, and Muddy Waters can get me excited, but B.B. King always seemed too respectable.

    I had a chance to see him at the New Orleans Jazz Fest two years ago, and I wish I hadn’t. I watched his band play without him for about 15 minutes. He came out at the very end of whatever tune they were playing and plucked two or three notes at the finish (I’m not exaggerating). He spent the next 10 minutes talking, and I finally gave up and left. A sad end for someone considered legendary. He was just playing out the string for the paycheck.

    • I saw BB a few years back and he played a bit more than you describe, but not much. Lots of talking and stories. Wish I would have seen him earlier in his career. I did think that the King-Clapton version of Riding with the King was kind of a hoot — and hopefully a nice little payday for John Hiatt.

  7. BigSteve

    I don’t think it’s a good idea to judge an artist by how he played at the end of his life. I saw B.B. play at some point in the 70s, and he was intense. He wasn’t ‘raw’ or ‘dirty’ in the way, say, John Lee Hooker was, but, if he was refined, it was just in the sense that he was urban, even urbane, not country.

    Everyone is free to like whatever kind of music they want to like, but it seems unfair to tell black artists that they should stay raw or we’re not interested. B.B. not only got better at what he knew how to do, he also broadened his music. On a radio tribute over the weekend, I heard an album of him singing Duke Ellington songs, and it was pretty great. I think Ray Charles had this same problem with some listeners in his later years, when he played music that tended towards big band stylings instead of, you know, What’d I Say.

    I also think it can be hard to hear B.B.’s guitar with fresh ears, because his influence is so pervasive. And a lot of people just don’t really get the blues, and people like B.B. get blamed for whoever it seems cool not to like, such as Clapton, SRV, John Mayer, or whoever.

    Years ago I was in a bar in Memphis one afternoon, and someone put The Thrill Is Gone on the jukebox. I had heard the song before, but on that day that groove was everything I wanted to hear. B.B. was never my favorite blues artist either, but I never want to forget that afternoon when he gave me a little taste of perfection.

    • Good stuff, BigSteve. I simply have not yet gotten to the point where I “get” B.B. King. The last thing I intended to do with this appreciation was to open the door to a bunch of “integrity” talk, although I guess that’s somewhat fair if that’s how people really feel.

 
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