A Memory Of A Lifetime

Courtesy The Chicago Tribune

Facebook memories gave me a real gem yesterday and it made my day.

The statement from ten years ago simply said “I just saw B.B. King in concert. Wow.”

That one line summoned a rush of memories from an epic road trip to Memphis and Nashville. This was the trip where I stayed in a wigwam. We studied Corvettes, toured Graceland and paid our respects to Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lorraine Motel. In all, we celebrated the music, history and bbq of the region for over a week.

The B.B. King concert was unplanned and dumb luck. The day we rolled into town, driving down Beale Street for the first time, we saw a banner on the side of BB’s club announcing that he was doing a show the next day. We called and got the last two standing room only tickets.

We had lunch earlier in the day and scoped out the ideal place to stand – in front of the bar where we would have no seat but would have the bar to lean on.

And it was perfect.

We were at the center, in the back of a room that really isn’t that big. We had a fantastic view of the stage but we had to get there early to secure our spot in this very intimate space. Then there were literal hours worth of amazing opening acts before B.B. came out.

I don’t recall how long we were there – six or seven hours, I think, but it was so much fun I didn’t even care that I was dead on my feet.

The only wrench in the works was an older Australian man with the biggest backpack I’ve ever seen. He stood in front of me most of the night. He seemed to forget that he had the ginormous pack but the lapse in memory may have been caused by his drunkenness. Luckily, he was friendly and jovial and glad to be alive even if he was a nuisance.

Incidentally, at some point a couple of guys standing next to us got tired of seeing him stumble into me and encouraged him to move on. We got to talking to them and they were also from southern Ohio. It was nice to meet someone from home and to know that chivalry isn’t dead. At least, it wasn’t dead ten years ago.

B.B. played well into the evening with the energy of a man much younger than his 85 years. When he was done, they wheeled out a birthday cake and everyone sang Happy Birthday to the man who defined blues music for generations.

My only regret is that I didn’t hop in the autograph line. WHY didn’t I hop in the autograph line??? It was late and I was tired and my feet hurt but when you have a chance to meet a music legend, you can sleep when you’re dead. You can rest those feet later. Stand in the line. Express your admiration and get your picture taken with the legend.

B.B. is gone now but he lives on through his music, through the countless musicians he continues to inspire and through the memories of all the fans who love his music.

Incidentally, B.B. didn’t allow any kind of photography or videography during his shows. So I have no photographic evidence that I was there. But that also means I wasn’t looking through a sea of hands in the air taking pictures all night and that his audience was fully present in the moment, fully engaged in the music.

There’s something to be said for that.

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