A Tribute to Mayor of Bluesville

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They sent the Mayor of Bluesville off in grand fashion with a jazz parade in Memphis along Beale Street. B.B. King, the legendary guitarist and singer died in his sleep Masy 14 at age 89.

King earned the title of mayor from the Sirius-XM satellite station Bluesville, Channel 70. All day after his death, his powerful voice and the wailing sound of Lucille, his guitar, streamed on that radio channel as I drove into town, ran around taking photos and then headed home after work. Tributes poured in from across the world, from fellow blues musicians and fans alike.

If I am not listening to National Public Radio news, Bluesville is usually where the car stereo is set. King, who performed until about six months ago when symptoms from diabetes forced him to cancel a tour, was a constant — if prerecorded — presence on the station. His most famous song undoubtedly was “The Thrill is Gone,” which he recorded in 1969 after his second — and last — marriage dissolved.

There is something about the blues that draws me back, time and again. It is the sound of an accomplished guitar player laying down some smoldering riffs. A sultry voice bemoaning the man who done her wrong. The lyrics that at times just flat crack me up:

Walking with my baby, she got great big feet

Long, lean and cranky and

ain’t had nothing to eat

But she’s my baby, I love her just the same

I’m crazy about my baby

‘cause Caldonia is her name.


Don’t like everybody

In my neighborhood

I got a no-good woman

She don’t mean me no good

But someday baby

I ain’t gonna worry my life anymore.

I had the privilege of seeing King perform once, about 30 years ago in Nacogdoches, in the coliseum at Stephen F. Austin State University. He came out wearing a tuxedo, carrying Lucille and proceeded to raise the roof of that venue to an appreciative crowd. It is strange to realize I am now about the same age King was that night three decades ago.

Four years ago, my Beautiful Mystery Companion gave me a resonator guitar for my birthday. I took blues guitar lessons while living and working in Austin, driving back to East Texas on the weekends. I played guitar, albeit not adeptly, through high school and college. The fellow who taught me grew a bit impatient at how slow I was to catch on. I simply have no natural rhythm — not in my feet as all previous dancing partners have attested, nor in my fingers. I quit taking lessons because getting stressed out over learning how to play the guitar was not part of the plan.

That guitar, which was inexpensive but is quite striking with its silver resonator cover, sits in a stand in my study, gathering dust. Every once in a while I pick it up and attempt to relearn the few blues licks the Austin fellow taught. I have even bookmarked a website that offers free blues guitar lessons. But life and other excuses keep interfering. It has been months since I played.

As I headed south of town to take another photo for the paper, B.B. King was singing “Why I Sing the Blues.”

Everybody wants to know

why I sing the blues.

Well, I’ve been around a long time.

I really have paid my dues.

When I first got the blues

They brought me over on a ship

Men were standing over me

And a lot more with a whip

And everybody wanna know

Why I sing the blues

Well, I’ve been around a long time

Mm, I’ve really paid my dues.

The Mayor of Bluesville may have left us, but his music remains. I think I’ll pick up that guitar again, see if I can learn a few licks, get serious this time.

Rest in peace, Mr. King.

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