Crazy ‘Bout the Blues.
Here in the San Francisco Bay area, we are fortunate to have several excellent public radio stations. One of them, KCSM is an all music station dedicated to Jazz, the true American art form. The other day, I heard that KCSM has the third largest record collection in the U.S. (maybe the World). The online personalities do a terrific job, and you can tell by their presentation, that they are passionate about the music they play.
On Friday nights, they air a program, “Crazy ‘Bout the Blues”.
Kathleen Lawton, the announcer, has one of those great radio voices, and every Friday night, she delivers the goods.
This is Public radio, and right now they are in the middle of a pledge drive. They seem to do OK, but expenses are rising continually, and KCSM is constantly overshadowed by their San Francisco neighbor, KQED.
KCSM is not a big powerful station and because of these hills, the signal often is a bit static-y, but thanks to the Internet, you can tune in to great Jazz every day of the week, and listen to the real Blues every Friday night. I am hearing listeners call in from Florida, Alabama. and Germany
Would you pay a dollar a week to hear great music, to hear something new every day?
Are you crazy about the Blues?
Listen to KCSM, listen to Kathleen, and do your part to support this station-
The eagle flies on Friday, please do your part to support this great programming.
The Thrill is Gone for Good.
B.B. King just died.
My brother used to say, “B.B. King only played a handful of notes, but boy does he play them like nobody else”.
I am embarrassed to put myself in the same sentence with B.B. King, but KCSM has devoted the whole day to him, and they are asking listeners for their personal stories of the first time we experienced the “king of the Blues”.
I was fortunate enough to meet B.B. King once, and attend his 50th birthday party.
I was driving a cab in the Chicago, Il. suburb of Skokie, and I took a fare to a dinner theater in a distant suburb where B.B. King was performing. I didn’t want to deadhead back, so I grabbed a quick bite in the neighborhood, and curled up with a good book in the front seat of my cab, hoping to pick up a fare after the show.
But when the crowd left, things didn’t look so good.
This was a suburban venue, so as the club emptied, the patrons headed for the parking lot where their own cars were, and pretty soon, the area was deserted.
But then a man walked out, climbed into my cab, and asked me to take him Downtown.
Kaching!, this was a good fare.
Everybody has a story, and one of the best parts of driving a cab is getting to get the guy in the back seat to tell you theirs.
Not only do they come to you, but they pay you to talk with them.
I started chatting up my passenger, and asked him if he was a fan of B.B. King, and he responded, “I better be, I am his manager”. He introduced himself as Leroy Meyers, and the conversation turned to Mr. King’s career. I learned that he was about to go to Africa for an International Black Pride event, sharing the stage with Muhammad Ali, among others.
Then he said “By the way, today is B.B.’s 50th birthday, and we are having party for him, would you like to go?”.
There can only be one answer to that question.
He told me to drop him at his hotel, so he could freshen up, then he would meet me in the hotel lounge at 11:00pm. He paid the fare, with a generous tip, and went into his hotel.
I was beside myself. Is this real? Will he forget about this, or dismiss it, and go without me?
I went to a coffee shop to wait it out, then drove back to the hotel, went into the lounge, and found him. This was one of those old, grand hotel bars, with dark Mahogany wood furnishings and plush leather upholstered furniture. Mr. Meyers invited me to have a drink with him, and about midnight, we left the hotel, got into my cab, and went to a South Side club- The High Chaparral.
It seems to me that this was a private party, and the club was closed to the public, but there was quite a crowd that night, perhaps 100 people. The front room, containing the bar, was packed. Leroy Meyers walked me through the crown and introduced me to several people including B.B. King, along with his son and daughter. We hung out for awhile having a few drinks, then someone announced it was time to go into the back room for the birthday party.
This was a good sized banquet room, and across one end a soul food picnic was set up on folding cafeteria tables. At the other end, there was a small stage.
We milled about for awhile, eating, then someone took the stage, an introduced Bobby “BLUE” Bland, another great bluesman.
Bobby sang a couple of numbers, then asked us to give a big birthday welcome to the “King of the Blues”.
B.B. King came on stage, and I we sang Happy Birthday. He thanked everybody and said “My contract states that I can’t immediately perform anywhere within 100 miles of another club, but if a man can’t play music at his own birthday, it just wouldn’t be a party.” He strapped on Lucille, and played two or three songs, including, “Everyday I have the Blues”, where he inserted one of his frequently used lines, “Nobody loves me but my Mama, and sometimes I think she might be jivin’ too”.
Of course, he finished up with “The Thrill is Gone”.
I have heard this song hundreds of times, both before and since that night, but it still moves me just like the very first time.
It was just before dawn when we left The High Chaparral. I drove Leroy Meyers back to his Downtown hotel, and he generously paid me for accompanying him. I was overwhelmed, here I am in one of the great Blues Cities, and somebody just paid me to hang out with B.B. King!
I was sitting there in my overwhelmed-ness, when this guy walked out of the hotel, and asked me to drive him to Evanston, where my Taxi hanger was. Not only did I not have to deadhead back, but he then pulled out a joint, asked if he could smoke, and offered some to me.
I had money in my pocket, and was sharing a joint while driving the magnificent Lakeshore Drive (LSD), and watching the Sun come up over Lake Michigan.
My dispatcher came on the radio, and said “118, where are you, we haven’t heard from you all night?”.
I turned off the radio, drove my fare to his destination, and when he paid me, he gave me his baggie of pot as a tip.
Today KCSM trashed their regular programming, and is playing tribute to the King of the Blues. They just played a promo recorded by B.B., in which he introduced himself and said “Everybody knows you have to pay your dues to sing the Blues, so do your part, and contribute to KCSM”.
A year or so later, I was in St. Louis, Mo., and B.B. King was playing there.
My friend Jack loaned me his motorcycle, I picked up Susan, another friend, and we went to the concert hall, where I used Leroy Meyers’ name to get us in through the Stage Door. As he exited the stage, I shook B.B.’s hand, reintroduced myself, and introduced him to Susan, who enthusiastically gave him a big wet kiss.
A roadie approached with his guitar, and asked, “B.B., what do you want me to do with Lucille?”. He reached out, took his guitar from the roadie and said, “I’ll take care of Lucille”.
I have been plugged into KCSM all day listening to the tribute, and this afternoon, they played what sounded like a live recording of B.B. King talking about his music, and talking about Lucille.
Because he was so genuine, the story was touching, but when Lucille started talking, it was magic.
How do you coax that much soul from six little pieces of steel wire?
At the Midnight, “Crazy ‘Bout the Blues” wrapped up a day of amazing music, all of it from one artist- B.B. King.
Kathleen Lawton announced that this day set an all time fundraising record for KCSM- all of it because of one artist-B.B. King.