Legendary Blues artist Riley B King aka B.B. King passed away this week at the age of 89. The “King of the Blues” graced many stages in his career, sharing his passion for the guitar and the blues with millions throughout the world. Celebrity Artist Malcolm Farley shares his memory with us of the late blues Icon.
A Most Admired Man by Artist Malcolm Farley
At the top of my bucket list has to be my favorite night onstage with Blues Legend BB King. I was fortunate in my career to have been in the presence of the “Master” several times while capturing him on canvas onstage with my brush. I always admired the charisma of the man and how with one smile he had the entire audience in the palm of his hand. He was the consummate showman.
I have one special, special evening that stands out though above all else. He was performing in downtown Oakland in one of the beautiful, ornate theaters created as a part of the WPA projects of yester year.
He had his usual command of the crowd that night. As intermission came to a close, the lights stayed down longer than usual. A buzz filled the arena as the crowd could see the outline of another figure taking a seat on stage. I could see well from my vantage point at stage left, but I could not make out the silhouette, but it sure looked like someone I had painted many times.
As the first chord was hit to open the second half of the concert, a “lead” guitar “danced” all over the melody as only Carlos Santana can. The lights exploded, and to the delight of the crowd, there was Carlos sitting side by side with BB King!
Needless to say, we were all in for a night that would be at the top of any bucket list. The two jammed for two hours, each trying to outdo the other with the next riff. How could this get any better?
But the night DID get better. After the concert rose to a standing ovation, signifying the “end”, BB strolled over to me and said “I just love the poster you did of me for the event. Do ya have any more?” I said “ Yes sir, I have about fifty left”.
He smiled and added “Good then, meet me in my bus in the alley in twenty minutes.” The longest twenty minutes in my life began to click away. Soon I was led, posters and my gold signing pen in tow, to the “tour bus of all tour buses” by his staff. I was greeted and asked to sit down. After some small talk regarding the show, he smirked while stating “I will make you a deal. I have twenty four grandchildren and I want one for my wall. How about we both sign them all and we each get twenty five?”
The “deal” was done over many stories, mostly regarding family, and laughter that came from the depths of the great man. I will always consider myself blessed to have gotten a chance to spend quality time with the “King of the Blues” that night.
I am reminded of him daily as I have one of the signed posters on my “wall of fame” in my studio. Now it will bring about a special feeling as his energy truly lives on in my heart and soul.
The thrill is NOT gone………….
Narrated by Morgan Freeman, B.B. King: The Life of Riley is the untold true American story of an orphan boy from the heart of the Mississippi Delta who rose to music stardom around the world and inspired a generation of fans against all odds. The documentary includes never-before-seen interviews with rock legends including U2’s Bono, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Ringo Starr and many others. Experience the inspirational journey of survival for the very first time with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and 15-time GRAMMY winning artist Riley ‘BB’ King.