One of my co-workers is a huge blues fan. When I got to work tonight, we discussed the long life and storied career of the late, great B.B. King. King's DNA is interspersed throughout today's popular music- with a career spanning the 1940's to the 2010's, he was a bridge between the era of pre-WW2 blues greats like Robert Johnson and the Rock and/or Roll era.
In the early days of his career, B.B. King almost died in a building fire- the anecdote sounds like something out of a movie:
Coincidentally, the year that King made his first recording was also the same year that he named his beloved guitar. King attended a dance in Twist, Arkansas, that had a barrel lit with kerosene in the middle of the dance floor, used to keep the crowd warm late at night. While there, a fight broke out and the barrel was knocked over, causing a fire to spread throughout the venue. Everyone evacuated, including King, but he rushed back inside to retrieve his prized guitar.
Luckily, he managed to escape with his guitar as the building collapsed around him. King later learned that the fight erupted because of a woman who worked at the venue named Lucille. From then on, King named his guitar "Lucille" to remind himself never to do anything so foolish again.
In our conversation, my friend and I discussed the predicament that would send a man into a burning building to grab his guitar... he knew that the guitar was his meal ticket, indeed his ticket to greatness. I can't even think of an equivalent possession in my life- an inanimate item that I would even think of risking my life to "rescue". Anyway, it's a great story, and spawned a signature tune:
It's tales like this that mark a true legend, events like the Twist, Arkansas fire that lend a raw authenticity to music. There won't be another quite like B.B. King- in this age of entertainment-like substance extruded by corporations, a man like King just wouldn't be polished enough for the A&R suits.