Monthly Archives: May 2015

Eulogy for a King

Today was an emotional one. My Uncle Wayne passed away on this day and I remember and miss him terribly. It’s already a really sad day for me.
I woke up at 5:00AM, showered and shaved, dressed in black and met my friend Wingnut to drive 300 miles to Indianola, MS. I needed to say goodbye. Riley B. King…I only knew that name as part of the legend…I knew (slightly) B.B. King or “B” if your mentor was Buddy Guy. I had the honor of sharing intimate, unscripted moments with B.B. over the years. I sat on road-cases and watched him unfold his magic over crowds of fans, I sat on the dressing room couch (or floor) and listened to Blues Legends (gods) reminisce and joke, I shared my own private moments of guidance and encouragement, I was truly blessed and rewarded to know him.
B.B. kissed my wife’s hand on first meeting her, (the only other guy, I know of, to have that honor) he signed a photo for my daughter, he signed a postcard for me, he signed my guitar, he gave me picks and pins (which I gave away to friends) he helped teach me the blues, performance, stage craft, class…He was a god. His impact and influence will be dissected and evaluated for decades by others but the truth is this; his melody was only sweetened by his character, his lyric was spiced by his wit, his harmony was weighted by his truth. He was not just an artist, he was an ICON. That carries a different sort of weight. I’ve met presidents, heads of state, rock stars, it’s not the same…Over the years, I watched video of B.B. being greeted by the Pope, The Queen of England, Presidents…I watched rockstars bow and kiss his ring…I watched one of my most high heroes defer to him time and again…REGAL…even when I reached a point where I could have “avoided it” as someone who was in the business, I stood in line as a fan and waited my turn to have an audience with B.B. King on his bus. My heart beats a little faster, even now, just imagining asking him if I can take a photo. This was my last time seeing him. 10401196_67598081480_4468_nI had my wife and daughter with me, Olivia was seeing him for the first time. I pray that she remembers it.
Indianola, MS. is not close to anything. Head to Memphis, pass Elvis Presley Blvd. & Graceland…Get off the highway at Clarksdale and drive past the County lock-up, the Full Of Soul Restaurant and the Mississippi State Prison. Rain comes in mile-markers; it’s on (HARD) and off…We got there at noon and drove up to a small pandemonium, torrential rain, traffic, police cars, news vans, the Gibson Guitar bus…the pandemonium you find at the sight of kings lying in state. Parking is in a nice grassy spot that has been transformed into a mud bog…skip the puddles to the museum…“Are you here to view the body?” A Mississippi State Trooper is holding the door, 7 more troopers are just inside lined against the far wall. Along with a herd of people…a cacophony of voices…A turn to the right, another turn to the right…a staircase…Bobby Rush is to my left but he’s a blur now…he’s being interviewed or visiting with someone…hard to tell…cameras are everywhere…7 (?) wooden steps, a metal rail and to my left are 12 State Troopers in a line, to my right a rope, leading to a casket. B.B. is in a beautiful jacket that I never saw him wear onstage…he looks frail, drawn, smaller, human…not real…his hands (those hands) are under the sheet, or whatever you call the cloth that covers the lower half of the deceased…he looks posed, an entertainer before an audience, drawn up to his fullest, ‘don’t let the crack’s show’ not a negative observation just an observation. Suddenly, I’m at the front of the line…paused…silent…praying…thanking B.B. for his gift…can’t cry in front of the Trooper honor guard and Wingnut…my heart hurts…Lucille is on a stand next to the casket. It’s not his “original” guitar, it’s a symbol…name 5 other guitars that are known by their name…hell, name 2 (Willie Nelson has Trigger, there ya go!!) B.B. King and Lucille…I hope they’re buried together. Don’t put her in a museum where we can go and gawk at her silence. I watched B.B. play that guitar (or one just like it) I watched him BURN on it, I watched him reach on it, I watched him play things I hadn’t heard him play before…I witnessed GREATNESS…then you’re outside…rain is coming down in buckets so you decide to stay under the portico…so does everybody else coming out…soon it’s 25 people, from all walks of life, who have come to say goodbye. NEVER judge a book by it’s cover: man, woman, black, white, young, old, rich, poor…B.B.’s audience…walking back to the car, a guy jumps out of an SUV with a “memorial” B.B. King T-shirt, “$20.00 my brothers”…nope…as I dodge the mud puddles…20 years of my life took 8 minutes to say goodbye…No…I’ll be feeling this forever. Buddy and I will reminisce I know…B.B.’s drummer, Tony Coleman and I are friends…we’ll certainly speak his name…everytime I pick up a guitar and play a note it will be in memory of Mr. Riley “B.B.” King…A mostly silent drive back to Nashville, XM radio seems to be playing more B.B. lately, everytime one comes up, so does the volume.