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Blues Legend B.B. King Performs at WolfTrap

Edith Billups | 9/2/2009, 11:13 a.m.

Blues legend B.B. King brought his one of a kind style to Wolf Trap Park for the Performing Arts on Sun., Aug. 30 in a show that was more an evening of lyrical memories than guitar playing by the 83-year-old musician.

King noted that the recent deaths of a sister and singer Michael Jackson had put him into somewhat of a contemplative mood, and the slowed-down King mostly told comical stories about his prescriptions and his continued love for the female gender. Still, an adoring audience didn€t seem to mind as they thunderously applauded the few tunes that King played during a two-hour set.

Born to a poor Mississippi family of sharecroppers in 1925, Riley B. King learned to play the guitar from his cousin, renowned bluesman Bukka White. During a career that spanned 61 years, King and his trademark hollow-body guitar, €Lucille,€ have traveled the world, performing in packed stadiums and before presidents and kings.

Onstage, the legend noted that his children constantly urge him to slow down and take it easy, but invariably, one will note that they just bought a new car and need help with the payment, the blues singer quipped.

Backed by a top notch band, King told stories about playing with such likes as rocker Eric Clapton and others, before segueing into a tribute to singer Willie Nelson.

King stopped playing at one point to mention the recent death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), noting that he was one of the blues man€s favorite senators. Turning contemplative again, King said, €When you get to be 83, you start asking God, why am I still here?€ as fans shouted out, €We love you, B.B.€

Just back from a European tour, King and his band still continue to perform an average of 250 shows a year, and he still finds time to record new tunes. A New Orleans, La. stride offering was an appeal for a friend to keep the blues man€s grave clean once he was gone. On €You are My Sunshine,€ King played homage to the women in the audience.

For many in the audience, no B.B. King performance is complete without his Grammy Award-winning €The Thrill is Gone,€ and King did not disappoint his fans. Seated, with two other younger guitarists by his side, King showed, although briefly, why he is respected by numerous musicians today and why he is loved by so many generations.