I was thrilled when I learned that I was going to interview legendary blues man B.B. King. He rolled into West Palm Beach last week for a performance at his newly opened B.B. King’s Blues Club, (one of six locations across the country).
But I was also a bit apprehensive because, admittedly, I knew nothing about the blues. I had to rely on my big brother Dwayne, a master of all music, to educate me about the songs of the music legend!
Once I learned about his hits like “The Thrill is Gone” and “Rock Me Baby,” and the story behind Lucille, his famous guitar — I was ready for my big night in the presence of a King.
I started the night with a truly scrumptious dinner at the club, which is divided into two sections: the restaurant side, and the club side where you can enjoy the house band seven nights a week and have dinner or drinks like the “Hoochie Coochie,” a blend of vodka and juices.
The menu boasts southern-inspired comfort cuisine, including soul food, American favorites and Cajun dishes infused with flavors from around the world. The Soul Sampler, ($15.95) which includes wings, ribs, sausage and fried pickles, is just an appetizer, believe it or not! And, whether you want Catfish and Shrimp ($19.95) or Filet Mignon ($22.50) —come with a hearty appetite, because portion sizes are grand.
I tried the Carolina BBQ Salmon ($23.95), which is to-die-for. The collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and the peach cobbler can rival your mama’s Sunday cookin’.
And the service overall was impeccable — though I expected nothing less on the night the big boss was there to perform.
With a full stomach in tow, it was time to meet the King of the blues in a private When he came into the room in a wheelchair, I thought age had gotten the better of this musical genius. After all, he’s performed for more than half a century. But, he explained, he simply has a bad leg. He walked just fine to a chair awaiting him. After a few moments in his presence, I was wildly amazed that, at 84 years old, he still has a flair for the ladies. Yes, he’s a charmer — even asking me if I’m married!
But most revealing, I learned that if it hadn’t been for sheer economics, Riley B. King — better known as B.B. King — might have been a gospel singer instead of singing the blues! Back in Mississippi, where he was born, whenever he sang gospel songs (his true passion) on the roadside, he got loads of compliments, but no money in his cup. But when fans requested the blues, his cup would fill up!
“And that’s why you got B.B. King, the blues singer, today,” he said.
When he took center stage with his beloved Lucille in his arms, he gave the capacity crowd of 500 just what they came for: a hearty dose of southern hospitality and down-home blues. The intimacy of the venue made his performance all the more appealing, with King talking to his audience, telling stories just as often as he sang for them.
They chimed in, singing “rock me,” when he sang “Rock Me Baby.” And in between hits, he sang “You Are My Sunshine,” to the ladies. And after an hour and a half, he closed with the classic hit, “The Thrill is Gone,” bringing the crowd to its feet, as it did much of the night.
Although I was prepared to go home and go to bed, sleep seemed like the farthest thing from B.B. King’s mind. His band had long ago left the stage while he was still there, mingling with the people, dishing out that good ole southern charm that his fans just couldn’t get enough of!
Photo by Carol Porter. B.B. King
B.B. King's West Palm Beach is located at CityPlace, 550 South Rosemary Ave, Suite 236,West Palm Beach. Please call 561-420-8600 or visit www.bbkingclubs.com. Reservations accepted.