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12-Year-Old Joe Bonamassa Opens for B.B. King in 1989

Awhile back, Joe Bonamassa treated his Facebook followers to a very special Throwback Thursday when he shared a video clip of his 12-year-old self opening for B.B. King in 1989.

Bonamassa played roughly 20 shows as King’s opening act on what would be his first tour, billed as Smokin’ Joe Bonamassa. The youngster had been gaining a following by performing in cities in Western New York and Pennsylvania. His mother wouldn’t let him perform out on school nights, but when the invitation came through from King, she relented. Judging from Bonamassa’s own account, at least part of the tour took place over a school vacation.

In the video, Joe can be seen playing a red Telecaster with the name Rachel lettered across the pickguard. Bonamassa recalls that he also owned a 1972 Fender Stratocaster in crimson red, which he called Rosie. 

“He’s the nicest person I’ve ever met in the music business. He is the blues, the blues is him,” Bonamassa said, recalling the late blues guitarist. “He helped me write the playbook on what I’m doing now.”

Once the tour was over, Bonamassa returned to school. “The teacher asked what we’d done on our vacation and I wrote a detailed account of touring with B.B. King,” he says. “The teacher’s reply was, ‘Please stop making stuff up in your gumdrop house on Lollipop Lane in the Land of Make Believe.’

“But I had the backstage pass.”