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Dan Gould

BB King Question

11 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

I ran into a comment on a youtube video that made no sense to me. I'll just quote it all:

Jude Dornisch

5 hours ago

I had the great good fortune to actually run lights and sound for BB for several shows. These where straight up bar shows with just him and whatever band was scheduled to open and support him. Four different bars, four different band one awesome show regardless. Let me tell you those backing bands never sounded as good he just brought the peak out of them. Just a total pro. The first night he was late and said exactly four words to me, monitor, kick base and vocal. Sat down turned to the band said three bar blues on one and just went off, let the band settle and that was all he needed to get into it. Lucile was singing from then on. Did some shows with Muddy and Albert but with what BB had to work with it was transcendent. The Pros are truly Pros

**************************

My question to the board members:

When did BB King ever tour as a single in bars? Maybe the 50s because I think at one point he had to disband the group he had in the bus - there was an accident or something? Certainly post-The Thrill is Gone he achieved a level of commercial success that he didn't need to go into a bar and perform with a pickup band.  

For that matter I don't even think that Muddy or Albert King did so either (Albert drove the tour bus himself, IIRC). If the guy had said it was Lowell Fulson I would totally believe it, because that is how he rolled, and in the 2000s there have been recordings released of some of those shows with no-name or barely-a-name bands. (BTW I don't recommend the most recent Lowell Fulson live recording available on Amazon - the backing group guitarist sounds a lot more like a rocker than a blues man and seriously detracts from the songs.)

So I've tried not to be too obnoxious to this guy but I did challenge him in a reply and I am wondering what the board thinks/knows.

Thanks.

Edited by Dan Gould

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"Bar gig" is a pretty wide-open term...I caught Ray Charles doing an entire evening at the Longhorn Ballroom, which was a bigass place, but ultimately, yes, a bar. And the band (a full big band, btw).

But working as a solo? I suppose so, if the money was lighter than usual for the entire band. But BB definitely kept a band for year. Salareid with benefits, including health insurance and retirement plan.

Now, I also saw Ray Charles in Albuqueque, backed by the Albuquerque Symphony. But he brought his rhythm section for sure. Not sure about the entire band, though, I'm thinking not.

This guy makes it sound like BB was primarily a solo act, and that doesn't sound right to ne at all. Or maybe he just wasn't paying attention and the "opening band" really was the BB King band. Now THAT would make sense.

I wsa on the chitlin' circuit for many years, and it was not at all unusual for there to be a band set before the min act came out. It ws cool, because that was where you could play something "jazzy", that was actually encouraged, to get the audience loosened up before the star (and when I say star, I just mean whover was the singer whose name was booked, local and/or therwise) came out to do their set(s).

 

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17 minutes ago, JSngry said:

But BB definitely kept a band for years. Salareid with benefits, including health insurance and retirement plan.

Not questioning your veracity, Jim — but how’d you come to hear this? Or if it’s generally known (in certain, limited circles obviously), can you expand?

Just curious (always curious).

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BB King generally traveled around the country with a bus that included his whole band, even in the 50s. 

 

Ernest Withers | B.B. King's Tour Bus, "Big Red", Beale Street (ca 1956) |  Available for Sale | Artsy

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30 minutes ago, JSngry said:

"Bar gig" is a pretty wide-open term...I caught Ray Charles doing an entire evening at the Longhorn Ballroom, which was a bigass place, but ultimately, yes, a bar. And the band (a full big band, btw).

But working as a solo? I suppose so, if the money was lighter than usual for the entire band. But BB definitely kept a band for year. Salareid with benefits, including health insurance and retirement plan.

Now, I also saw Ray Charles in Albuqueque, backed by the Albuquerque Symphony. But he brought his rhythm section for sure. Not sure about the entire band, though, I'm thinking not.

This guy makes it sound like BB was primarily a solo act, and that doesn't sound right to ne at all. Or maybe he just wasn't paying attention and the "opening band" really was the BB King band. Now THAT would make sense.

I wsa on the chitlin' circuit for many years, and it was not at all unusual for there to be a band set before the min act came out. It ws cool, because that was where you could play something "jazzy", that was actually encouraged, to get the audience loosened up before the star (and when I say star, I just mean whover was the singer whose name was booked, local and/or therwise) came out to do their set(s).

 

Dude clearly implies bar with local group backing him, not the BB King Blues Band.  Plus he said BB showed up late.

And WTF is calling "three bar blues"?  Googling it, it appears to be a song from around 2020? 

20 minutes ago, Rooster_Ties said:

Not questioning your veracity, Jim — but how’d you come to hear this? Or if it’s generally known (in certain, limited circles obviously), can you expand?

Just curious (always curious).

I am pretty sure this is mentioned in BB's autobiography, actually. It wasn't a secret.  Later on he'd pay education expenses for band member kids, IIRC.

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Reply from the poster:

1978 or 79 was a while ago. But that was right at the time he actually was not touring doing at best one concert a year and was surviving on Walk ons and bar gigs. Muddy and Albert managed to keep their bands with them, which was made BB really stand out. Heck James Brown as playing bars around that time was scheduled to do two shows with him one in a bar in Minot North Dakota that he skipped out of after a show at the Cabooze a bar in Minneapolis. Not really something you dwell on in an autobiography is it. It is a brutal business that he regained standing is a testament

 

Comments? I am pretty sure that from the time he got away from the Biharis and specifically after "Thrill is Gone" he had not only commercial success but management that made him a wealthy man.

Or just check out this:

https://www.setlist.fm/stats/concert-map/bb-king-2bd698fe.html?year=1978

yes there are some bars like the Bottom Line in NYC.

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Posted (edited)

I do recall Albert King's bus being parked in the Antone's parking lot the two weekends I heard him play there, circa 1982-1983.

It was a guitar battle  all night between Albert King and the second guitarist in his band (wish I knew who he was), whose amp was not turned up as loud as Albert King's amp.

Unfortunately, B.B. King didn't play there during that period.

Buddy Guy would fly in as a solo artist and play with the House band. He and Junior Wells also showed up two weekends with a full band.

Edited by kh1958

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2 hours ago, Rooster_Ties said:

Not questioning your veracity, Jim — but how’d you come to hear this? Or if it’s generally known (in certain, limited circles obviously), can you expand?

Just curious (always curious).

I worked a lot, for a good while (20+ years), in the local chitlin' circuit. I came to know a lot of people. Like Dan said, this is not a secret or anything, especially amongst players who worked, or hoped to work, that gig. The range of "good gigs" had BB at the very top. Little Milton also was said to be cool, but to what extent, I don't know. Bobby Bland paid well enough, but you could be there one day and gone the next (which is probably why on their package gigs, BBs band was always there, and sometimes to help play Bobby's show). Then then there's Johnny Taylor...oh my lord...I almost took that gig, but our first child had just been born and my wife kinda unsubtly said no fucking way. And when was right - no per diem, pay in cash strictly after the gig (and not very much, either), you paid for EVERYTHING, and no travel allowance with a bus that can and did break down and leave you stranded for a day or two on your own.

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5 minutes ago, JSngry said:

I worked a lot, for a good while (20+ years), in the local chitlin' circuit. I came to know a lot of people. Like Dan said, this is not a secret or anything, especially amongst players who worked, or hoped to work, that gig. The range of "good gigs" had BB at the very top. Little Milton also was said to be cool, but to what extent, I don't know. Bobby Bland paid well enough, but you could be there one day and gone the next (which is probably why on their package gigs, BBs band was always there, and sometimes to help play Bobby's show). Then then there's Johnny Taylor...oh my lord...I almost took that gig, but our first child had just been born and my wife kinda unsubtly said no fucking way. And when was right - no per diem, pay in cash strictly after the gig (and not very much, either), you paid for EVERYTHING, and no travel allowance with a bus that can and did break down and leave you stranded for a day or two on your own.

Thanks, Jim.   Just for clarification, I imagine that was Johnnie Taylor, not Little Johnny Taylor.  Right.  I've also heard bad rumors about the way Johnnie Taylor treated his musicians and other professionals around him.  But damn could he flat out sing!

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That JT gig sounds like it’s Taylor-made for single folk. Definitely not a family man set up. 

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Yeah, single people, some people who liked to get high every day, and people who wanted to work their way into the Malaco scene, which was definitely easier said than done.

Malaco was very professional within themselves. It's with the road bands where it was every leader doing it their way. To be fair, JT always kept a solid core rhythm section. But past that....it was a rough gig in damn near every way. My wife called it right, because now that there was a baby in the house....

Just remember, though, there are/were? people who just wanted a gig, period, because having a gig meant that they were still playing. That's a deep pull to some people, and they don't all line up their behavior to maximize the focus of their energies.

11 minutes ago, John L said:

Thanks, Jim.   Just for clarification, I imagine that was Johnnie Taylor, not Little Johnny Taylor.  Right.  I've also heard bad rumors about the way Johnnie Taylor treated his musicians and other professionals around him.  But damn could he flat out sing!

I can separate all those great records (and TV appearances!) from the other stuff, because it's the entertainment business, built on image and fantasy, selling a product that in and of itself may very well be of the very highest quality and contain no small amount of truth. Some people can't separate the creation form the creators, to which all I can say is....good luck with that. If you let that play all the way out, you'll never run into storage issues, if you know what I mean.

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