Berliner (captward) Tue 22 Nov 05 08:52
Just a brief note to mention that I'll be on the road most of tomorrow, and praying for some kind of internet access in my hotel room once I get to Amsterdam. Y'll ask David some *really* challenging questions to keep him busy, and I'll try to check in at least once before I leave in the morning.
David McGee (davidmcgee) Tue 22 Nov 05 09:37
Hi, Valerie. Thank you for the kind words about the book; I'm glad you enjoyed it. To answer your question, I believe there's only two artists B.B. might--might--regard as protegees, one a singer, the other a picker. The singer is Bobby "Blue" Bland, and I single him out because he sort of learned about the business while working for B. as a valet as he was breaking in. I believe B. took Bobby under his wing, the same way Bukka White had done B. in his youth, and taught him about dressing right, stagecraft, dealing with fans, being a professional in his approach to the music and the business around the music. And you know, B. is an incredible vocalist, and I believe Bobby picked up some inspiration from hearing how B. approached a lyric. Though their paths rarely cross anymore, B. and Bobby have a close bond, spiritual, really, and in their own way look out for one another. I have heard from multiple sources that B. has insisted that Bobby be booked at the B.B. King clubs on a regular basis, and I don't know that B. has done that for any other artist. I don't believe he has much involvement in those clubs that bear his name, but in the case of Bobby Bland, he most certainly has thrown his weight around. The other artist who might be a protegee on some level is one of B.'s favorite young guitarists, Kenny Wayne Shepherd. B. is quite fond of Kenny, and at one time they were in regular contact with each other, B. freely giving of his experience and insight in helping Kenny get a grip on the business. And B. himself told me that they had talked a lot about playing, little tips and tricks they use, and of course he said something like, "Of course I learn as much from [Kenny] as he does from me, maybe more." And of course, B. absolutely loved Stevie Ray Vaughan, but theirs was not a mentor-protegee relationship in the least.
Berliner (captward) Tue 22 Nov 05 10:06
You don't think Junior Parker was more important in Bobby Bland's career than B.B. King? Or, since this isn't a contest, *just as* important?
Low and popular (rik) Tue 22 Nov 05 10:11
I'm still interested in the Fender/Gibson deal, David. As I mentioned earlier, I've seen early photos of him holding a Fender, and wonder if he played them early on, or if it was hust a prop. If he moved from Fender to Gibson, there should have been a major sonic shift in his playing. It would be unmistakeable on record. I just haven't heard much early BB. My earliest album is "Live at the Regal".
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Tue 22 Nov 05 11:48
On the early records -- "Sweet Sixteen," "My Own Fault," "Rock Me Baby," etc. -- B. played a big-ass hollow-body, I believe. A Gretsch, maybe?
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Tue 22 Nov 05 11:55
Just checked an old King LP I've got, "The Greatest Hits of B.B. King, Vol. 1," with a really cheesy photo-collage cover. One of the clipped-and-cropped photos is definitely a Fender (and it's labeled, by the collage person, "Lucille") but there's no way to tell if B. was playing that particular guitar. About protogees, many years ago I heard B. say on the Mike Douglas Show (might've been David Frost) that he admired Bloomfield's playing a lot, and heard himself in some of Bloomer's work. This might've been in 1969 or '70, perhaps '72. I don't know what kind of personal relationship they had, though, if any.
Low and popular (rik) Tue 22 Nov 05 12:06
He is also reputed to have said that Peter Green's playing gave him "the sweats".
Berliner (captward) Tue 22 Nov 05 12:12
Here's what B.B. had to say when I talked to him on the phone about Bloomfield: "What do you say about your son? If he favors you, you think that's a great thing, makes you happy. And it's the same with playing guitar. "We talked many times. We had many man-to-man talks, but it always led up to music, you know. From the very first meeting we had a very good relationship with each other. And when the subject would, as I said, change to music, it would deal with something we wanted to do, musically, and he'd ask my advice on what to do. "Michael was a warm person, a real good-hearted person, a friend, a dear friend. If he liked you, he'd tell the world about you, and that helped me out a lot. I met his mother, and she said he'd told her about me. "Michael was very talented. I think of him as an old friend, the sky's the limit. That's the kind of guy he was. No telling what he might have accomplished if he'd lived longer, that's hot talented he was. I miss him." From that I gather that they did hang out some. There was also the famous confrontation at the Fillmore during the Live Adventures recording, when Bloomer saw B.B. had been invited down and was too ashamed to play. And at one point, he was taking so much heroin that he stopped playing for a month or two, and B.B. found out and sent him a letter upbraiding him for wasting his talents like that.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Tue 22 Nov 05 12:56
Interesting. Thank you, Ed. I still miss Bloomers, too. No one before or since phrased slow, slow blues solos the way he did. If Brahms wrote a concerto for blues violin the phrasing of the solo passages would be like Bloomfield's. I listen to the old records today, and the best of them ("Blues on a Westside," "Don't Throw Your Love On Me So Strong," and the swinging "Carmelita Skiffle") still sound to me like a guy who was playing on another, separate level from everyone else. Which isn't to say he was better than B.B., of course. B.B. plays a different kind of instrument than Bloomfield did; in terms of soul, I can't tell where B.B.'s voice stops and the guitar begins. They seem one, and pure.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Fri 25 Nov 05 09:26
reminder for those following along on the Web: You can submit questions or comments or moving stories to us at email@example.com and we can post 'em for you here. Or you can become a member of the Well and do it yourself: just get on over to http://www.well.com/join.html and you'll see how.
Berliner (captward) Sat 26 Nov 05 01:38
Hey, where'd everyone go? I've been online all week -- although that may change today, and I should be back on Sunday. David?
David McGee (davidmcgee) Mon 28 Nov 05 07:03
Hey Ed, I was felled by computer problems. No online access at home since this past Wednesday, plus my laptop processor's apparently on the fritz Back in the office today and will check in here periodically in case anyone has any queries.
David Dawson (dawson54) Mon 28 Nov 05 15:48
David -- good to know you're back online again. I was wondering about you mentioning that BB was brought up in the Church of God in Christ. They just finished their annual convocation here in Memphis a few weeks ago, and I would doubt that many of them would approve of BB's brand of blues. In other words, COGIC members are generally square within the Pentecostal tradition that maintains that gospel or hymns are the only music acceptable for the "sanctified" (as they refer to themselves). Do you know if BB is still a practicing member, and if so, how he manages to play this worldly music in clubs and venues where people drink, dance, and do whatever they feel moved to do? And not just any worldly music, but blues music, which has -- thanks probably to the Robert Johnson crossroads legend -- long been considered something a bit dangerous, with its hoodoo spells, black cat bones, and evil spirits.
David McGee (davidmcgee) Wed 30 Nov 05 10:50
David, My understanding, from sources close to B.B., is that he hasn't been in a church in years, decades probably, as a practicing member of anything. I believe what he keeps within him is a deeply spiritual sense of his place in the world, his responsibilities, and his values, and has kept sacred all the wisdom his mother passed on to him when he was growing up. I think there's a God fearing side of B.B. that COGIC members could relate to, but he's altogether too worldly for that church--seen too much, knows too much and doesn't deny what he knows about the games people play (and with 12 children by 12 different women, it's safe to say he has indulged in those games with gusto himself). He has acknowledged in interviews the second-class citizen status of blues artists, but I believe he sees his blues as being of the positive and uplifiting variety, for the most part, while not denying the tortured, mean-woman blues that have been a part of his repertoire from the start. He'll tell you he sings about relationships, not about voodoo, hellhounds, and such, and he's right. Still, I think because he hasn't addressed his spirituality even indirectly in song in years, I wish he would take up Stewart Levine's offer to do a gospel album. I'll say it again as I said it in the book: for an artist so steeped in gospel in his vocal approach, it's curious that he's cut only one gospel album in his entire career, and that in 1959. The life experiences he could bring to that music now would give us, I think, an astounding record. Are you hearin' me, B?
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 30 Nov 05 11:18
Wow, what an idea.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 30 Nov 05 12:08
Twelve children with 12 differnt women. Wow. And hell yes, a gospel album! I'd love to hear that.
Berliner (captward) Wed 30 Nov 05 12:25
I left a question up there I was hoping you'd respond to, in relation to the godawful 1956 single "Bim Bam." Were the Bihari Brothers at Modern Records really thinking he was some sort of all-round entertainer they could develop for the teen market, or...well, what the hell were they *thinking* when they had him do that? (And, for that matter, what do you suppose led him to cut it?)
David McGee (davidmcgee) Fri 2 Dec 05 09:00
Sorry to overlook your question about "Bim Bam," Ed. That record was indeed done at the Biharis' request, at a time when they were having B.B. experiment with more commercial styles (check out the great "B.B. Wails" album on Crown--the song "Come By Here" is built on the old folk song "Kumbaya," the beautiful love ballad "I Love You So" is in-the-pocket '50s R&B that brought out the best in B.B. the crooner. "Bim Bam" had a chanting female chorus and a terrific sax solo by Plas Johnson, and an infectious rhythm track. Even B., as much as he hates it--and he has rarely passed up an oppoturnity to denigrate it, has said, "...we did a pretty good job on it." But his standard take on it is: "That's the only record I ever did because one of the executives at the company asked me to do it for a friend. They thought they was getting into rock 'n' roll. No more favors for friends." John Broven, the A&R consultant for Ace Records who has been spearheading the B.B. reissue campaign for that label, was a young man growing up in England at the time "Bim Bam" was released, and he remarks in my book about what a popular song that was, and remains so, in many British dance clubs. "If you go to a rock 'n' roll club, don't be surprised if you hear 'Bim Bam,' and it fills the dance floor," he told me. The song is still hard to find--it's rarely anthologized (interesting, since almost every compilation has some level of cooperation from B.). Even Ace's "Vintage Years" box set omits it. I think B. would like that one song to disappear from his canon. Funny that "Bim Bam" should arouse so much ire in him, when there are a couple of tracks on his first self-produced album, the woeful "Lucille Talks Back," from 1975, as well as some of those horrid wah-wah things he cut with Jerry Williams for the "King of the Blues 1989" album ("...scattered and unfocused, its workmanlike execution betraying a pronounced lack of commitment to the least distinguished collection of songs B.B. had ever committed to a long-player" is how is described it in the book) that should earn as much, if not more, enmity than "Bim Bam." But B. chose to do those latter songs--and "Lucille Talks Back" certainly was his vision from conception to completion--whereas he asserts "Bim Bam" was forced on him, more or less. Maybe that's the distinction.
Berliner (captward) Fri 2 Dec 05 09:29
I guess we should be happy they didn't decide to have him do a cha-cha album. You refer to the "woeful:" '75 album above. Any others in the King Kanon that should be avoided?
David Gans (tnf) Sat 3 Dec 05 18:30
We've rolled another conversation into the center ring, but that's o reason for this one to stop happening. I've enjoyed having with with us, David. I hope you'll stick around in this topic, and maybe visit the music conference, too?
Berliner (captward) Sun 4 Dec 05 01:26
Yeah, we didn't even get to talk about Carl Perkins!
David Dawson (dawson54) Sun 4 Dec 05 11:59
Damn. He was the most genuinely gracious music "celebrity" I ever got to interview. He deserves to be remembered well.
Berliner (captward) Sun 4 Dec 05 12:47
Have you read the autobiography David did with him? Great stuff!
David Gans (tnf) Sun 4 Dec 05 12:57
"Go, Cat, Go!" A great read.
David Dawson (dawson54) Sun 4 Dec 05 15:29
I need to get a copy. About 15 years ago I was getting set to try and write a biography of Carl Perkins, but other commitments -- like paying the rent and feeding the chirrens -- got in the way. I'm anxious to see what David McGee had to say about Carl.
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