B.B. King, the guitar-picking, blues-singing octogenarian, packed the house at the Chumash Samala Showroom last week, making jokes about his age and holding a devoted audience in the palm of his hand.
After King admitted, “I just made 87,” a young woman called out, “I like older men.” Another yelled, “I love you, B.” The music man in the white jacket was clearly having a good time, joking with his musicians and the audience, not in any rush to team up with his famed guitar, “Lucille,” and sing the blues.
Now an entertainment icon, songwriter, and influential guitar stylist many have learned from, King was born poor in a tiny cabin in Mississippi. When he was 4, his father deserted his family, and he was raised by his maternal grandmother.
“I been married two times,” he said, and divorced as many. Not surprising for a man who used to rack up 250 or more performances a year on the road, and reportedly fathering 15 children along the way.
King’s songs get to the heavy heart of things, like one classic he played Thursday night, “Every Day I Have the Blues,” in his deep, strong voice; and the blues standard, “Rock Me Baby,” about a man ready for all-night loving. Then he moved into the upbeat old-timer, “Clementine.” At one point, he tailed off one piece, explaining with a grin, “When you get to 87, you forget the words.” The crowd loved it.
Then, finally, the song everyone was waiting for, Grammy-winner “The Thrill Is Gone,” about love that’s dead. “I’m free from your spell, and now that it’s all over, all I can do is wish you well.”