I got to see B.B. King live in concert once. I realize that millions of people have, that he toured relentlessly until now when he will never tour again. But, despite not being unique in this trait, I consider myself special for having experienced it.
It was 2004, and my friend (who had recently broken up with me) had already purchased tickets. “It’s ok if you take Tim,” I told him. His room mate at the time is just a big of a music geek as any of us, and quite a guitar player. Tim would have loved it. “No,” my ex said, a No I will forever appreciate, “No, I bought them for us to go, we’ll go together. It’ll be fun.”
To be fair, we’re not the awkward exes of dramatic literature and over played movie cliches. We’re friends, always were, and hopefully always will be. I respect him as a human, he is part of what grew me into an adult. Also, to be fair, even if he had been the ex from hell – I wasn’t going to argue too adamantly about whether or not I got to go to the Eric Clapton Crossroads Concert. It was Eric Clapton. It was B.B. King. It was… everyone who made guitar history ever…
It was beautiful.
I drove up from Houston to Dallas to attend. In June, in a car with no AC. I stayed the weekend in dorm rooms that were closed for the summer. It was worth it just to hear that man play.
It was a hot, sunny day – until the end when it wasn’t and ZZ Top got rained out – sweltering even, but it was good. It was several generations of men in the most relaxing and amazing jam session on stage that I’d ever heard. It was Texas in a stadium of fans born and bred in Texas – I’m not great with crowds, but good old country boys listening to the blues is a crowd I can manage. I was laying in the grass while an old hippie with boobs down to her waistline swayed, clapped, and danced, depending on what was most appropriate for whatever song was playing.
I wish I could record my journal entry from that weekend here for you, but that journal is in storage, and I doubt I was very articulate anyway… I imagine it was a lot of: Oh My God, that was AMAZING. I do know that I lamented the fact that my now husband hadn’t been able to get tickets and go himself. It was something I knew he would have enjoyed. My ex is my friend, but my husband has always been my very best friend – especially then. Now, I lament that he missed it completely. Seeing B.B. King together was something I thought we’d get around to eventually. I should have known better, the man was old. But he seemed so epically immortal. Even though he sat through the whole concert, I didn’t see it then as a sign of an older man – I saw it as a sign of a King on his throne.
I remember John Mayer coming out. I remember being so proud of how respectful he was to all the men who had come before him – especially B.B. King. I didn’t like John Mayer until that moment, until I saw him bow with such grace to a man that I adored and would come to adore more and more as I aged, as I married, as I had a baby who would live the first year of her life listening to jazz and R&B in our living room while my husband smoked a cigar on the porch after work with the door open so the music and the smoke could play a wafting dance on the threshold. B.B. King, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald… my child knows these voices well.
B.B. King, you have shaped so many lives with your talent, you beautiful, beautiful man. Thank you for gracing the world with your presence. Thank you for all the concerts, all the performances, and all the love for music that has always seemed to radiate from your entire being and existence. Bless you. Thank you, and bless you.