In the fall of 1970, some fellow band mates and I drove the four hours to Chicago to see B.B. King at a wonderful dinner club called Mr. Kelly’s. We couldn’t afford the dinner and show, so we had to sit at the bar and nurse two very over-priced Cokes. But it was worth it, of course. He was fabulous and blew me away!
After the show, he was sort of hanging around in front of the stage, so I took that opportunity to talk to him. I told him I had been trying to learn how to play the blues by listening to and playing along with many of his records, but, no matter what I did, I didn’t sound like him. I asked him if it was because I’m white and I would just never get it. He laughed and said, "No man, that’s got nothin to do with it. Have you ever been treated bad by a girl?"
And I said, "Sure."
He said, "Well that’s the Blues. Now you put that feeling into your fingers."
A major light bulb went off, and suddenly I got it.
Then he said, "Learn from the records, but don’t try to copy. Take what you learn and make it your own, because that’s what will keep the blues alive."
Those two things had a profound impact on how I perceived music and guitar playing, and influenced everything I did musically throughout my career. I am forever grateful to him for his wisdom, his kindness, and his generosity. I would not be the guitar player I am today without those words from him. He taught me the value of a single note and that music is the sound your feelings make. His, is the only autograph I own.
The World has lost one of the very few worthy of being called a “legend.” God Bless the sweet Soul of Mr. B.B. King!