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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 37 No. 3. March 20, 1974

Concert — 'A Young Man Who Is Making Quite A Name for Himself —

page 17


'A Young Man Who Is Making Quite A Name for Himself —

With this understatement Louis Hubert, baritone sax player with Sonny Freeman and the Unumals, introduced B.B. King, the 'King of the Blues', 'the greatest blues guitarist alive', who in his late forties continues to inspire praise for his dedication and talent as a composer and performer of the Blues, as well as for his influence on the superstars of Rock; Clapton, Beck and Hendrix for example. In fact B.B. King has never been 'a young man making a name for himself, for it has taken 37 years of hard work to reach the position which he now occupies in the musical world.

"I didn't play rock and roll, I was just sticking with the blues and people were wondering why I wasn't accepted in the eyes of the public as well as Bobby Bland, Sam Cooke and Otis Redding.

"Maybe I am at the top of my career, but I don't think I am as far as my music is concerned, because for many years no-one seemed to know anything about it anyway.

"In '56 I did 342 one-nigh lets. I would take all the work I could do."

With success has come the opportunity to adopt a more flexible work schedule. In future B.B.'s college and concert appearances will be limited to three specific working periods of 30—45 days each. This will allow him to devote time to recording, writing his autobiography, editing his motion picture, and appearing at major hotels, theatres on foreign tours and in the long-term engagements he has established at the Las Vegas Hilton. His manager has pointed out that the new booking policy will not impinge on B.B.'s philanthropic activities.

B.B. King's Wellington concert was opened by the Wellington group 'Section', to whom he later paid tribute for the youth and ability of its members. Appearing with B.B. was his band, known as Sonny Freeman and the Unusuals, with Sonny Freeman on drums, Rony Levy on piano, Wilbert Freeman playing bass, Milton Hopkins guitar, Louis Hubert saxophone, and Eddy Rowe trumpet. Their opening fulfilled all expectations of a band which plays alongside 'The King'. A short break and then B.B. walked on stage, picked up Lucille (his guitar), made a few adjustments and launched into a performance which lasted two hours. With the first note he was at once familiar to his audience.

My love is music

When I sing I have sung of the love for you and me.

BB is a bulky figure who moves with reserve around the stage. His hands, in contrast, are never still — he hits or strokes notes out of Lucille, plays trills with incredible speed, stops playing, pounds his fists, offers prayer-like gestures, places a hand on his hip in a hussy-like posture, grips Lucille and moves in see saw fashion. His facial expressions are as varied as his music — crying, clowning, anger, frustration and female fickleness are all represented.

I gave you a brand new Ford
But you said 'I want a Cadillac
I brought you a ten-dollar dinner
And you said Thanks for the snack'

The audience clapped and sang in response to his implicit invitations and open coaxing joining him in singing 'I'd love to live the love I sing about" and "When the saints....". "Hummingbird", "How Blue Can You Get", "The Thrill is Gone" are some of the standards featured during the performance, with the epic "Why I Sing the Blues" taking the final place in the encore and proving beyond doubt the falsity of B.B.'s earlier remark that 'My vocab is not well-equipped enough'.

Everybody want to know
Why I sing the blues,
Yes I say everybody want to know
Why I sing the blues,
Well I've been around a long time,
I've really paid my dues.

When I first got the blues
They brought me over on a ship
Men were standing over me
And a lot more with a whip,
Now everybody wanna know
Why I sing the blues,
Well I've been around a long time,
I've really paid my dues.

I've laid in the ghetto flats cold and numb,
I've heard the rats telling bed-bugs
to give them Roger's thumb,
And everybody want to know
Why I sing the blues,
Well I've been around a long time
People I've paid my dues.

I stood in line
Down at the County Hall,
I heard a man say
'We're gonna build some new apartment for Y'all,
And everybody want to know
Yes they want to know why I'm singing the blues,
Yes I've been around a long time,
Yes I've really paid my dues.

My kid's gonna grow up,
Gonna grow up to be a fool
'Cause they aint got no more room,
No more room for him in school,
And everybody want to know
Everybody want to know why I'm singing the blues,
I say I've been around a long time
Yes I've really paid some dues.

Photo of B. B. King