It was 1985 in Edmonton, Alberta and I was 25 years old and had just landed my own radio show on CJSR University Radio. I had always been a music collector; a music junkie; a music GEEK and this was my chance to shout out to the world!
After a few shows I was awarded my first big interview with the King of the Blues himself, B.B. King. I was told I’d be allowed to spend a 1/2 hour with him. I packed up my portable recorder and my notes and headed downtown to meet the man. Excited and terrified!
I found the Hotel and told the person at the front desk my purpose. They told me to take a seat and picked up the house phone. A few minutes later, a very well dressed man who was obviously part of Mr King’s entourage appeared and said, “You here to see B.B. King?”
I shyly mumbled that I was and the man very subtlety opened his jacket to show me he had a pistol hidden by his side. He looked me right in the eye to make sure I saw and gave me a ‘do you understand?’ nod.
I was a kid from Edmonton and had NEVER seen a gun before. I nodded back at him, feeling suddenly like I was in a cartoon or something but quickly realized this was not a good time to start laughing. That would not have been the blues DJ thing to do! Stay cool, Doug, you are here to see B.B. King!
Lesson #1 – Faking your purpose/status in the music business is what most of us are doing, no matter what level we are at. I think at times we all feel that way.
He took me upstairs and led me into a reception room and said something like, “unpack your stuff here and Mr King will arrive in a few minutes. He wasn’t mean or anything, just very thorough. He had obviously seen a few things that made him the way he was.”
A few minutes later ~ a knock at the door ~ and in wandered the great man himself, dressed in a magnificent velvet smoking jacket & slippers – total class! As you can hear below, I began the interview and immediately froze. B. B. was so gentle he pretended he didn’t notice what was going on and brought me right down to Earth. He could have torn me to shreds and I will always remember his kindness.
In retrospect, I asked a few questions I would likely never ask anyone (as my mature self) today but I have left everything in as I think it adds to the charm of the interview and certainly tells the listener lots about B.B. King as well. Besides, my questions were sincere and he picked up on that. What a lovely man he was.
He ended up chatting with me for quite awhile. A year later, B.B. returned to Edmonton. I bought tickets to the show and was seated in the back of the club. I made no attempt to bother him as I felt like he had given so much the year before and what could I possibly say to him anyway? “Remember me?” Yuk.
This was when B.B. still walked through the club at the end of his show, shaking hands with the crowd while the band leader on stage kept repeating, “Ladies and Gentlemen… B… B… King!” over top of a funky vamp his band would play. OLD SCHOOL!
B.B. saw me as he was walking through the room, came up to me, called me by my name and proceeded to talk to me like I was an old friend.
LESSON #2 LEARNED. What a skill to be able to do that as a musician on the road! Sadly, I am still working on that one. I still have trouble remembering where I am half the time while on tour!
So here it is – the interview in full – I hope you enjoy it and learn something about B.B. King you may not have known before. The interview starts with us opening curtains and windows to get some fresh air in the room along with B.B. making sure his guy was going to check in on us every now and then…
I’d love to hear your memories about B.B. or your thoughts about the interview! Thanks for joining me.