Friday, May 22, 2015

The Summer School of Rock - B.B. King

Hello old friend, I've missed you.

So, before we get to the post itself, a little background for those of you who haven't been here since the dawn of time...

A few years ago, this all started when my husband was a den leader for Webelos, covering a lesson on music with the boys. I was shocked/appalled/sad that the vast majority of them had no exposure to anything outside of whatever is played on the top 40 stations. One had never been exposed to anything other than country music. When they didn't all know who the Beatles were, an angel cried. 


And thus, this began. I decided standing in the kitchen that night, watching it all unfold, as my husband exposed these kids to Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana and Metallica and Nirvana, that we had to make more of a point to share our love of all types of music with our kids at least. (My son had obviously heard it all before that night).

I started to teach him about the history of rock music. We started with rock because he'd just received his first guitar and wanted some simple, easily recognizable riffs to play that gave him a bit of street cred.

I spent the better part of a summer exploring new bands with him (and by extension, his siblings). After mentioning it a few times around these parts, people started to ask if I was going to share it all the following year I began the Summer School of Rock. 

My initial goal was to spend one month showcasing the most influential 31 bands/artists in rock. I got sidetracked because of things that happened and didn't get a chance to finish it, but then I realized that it was never meant to be done. There are so many more than 31 worthy mentions that this could go on indefinitely. 

So here we are. 

SHARE THE MUSIC YOU LOVE WITH YOUR KIDS. It totally pays off when you catch your 11 year old daughter singing along to The Wall

If you'd like to read about some of the other bands and artists I've already covered, I will link them by name at the end.

Up now, B.B. King.


Born Riley King in 1925 on a plantation in Mississippi, B.B. was the son of sharecroppers and raised primarily by his grandmother. He grew up singing in the choir at church and bought his first guitar at the age of 12. As he grew older, he started playing at neighboring churches and on the local radio station.

He started recording albums in the 1940s and would end up with over 50 albums to his credit.  In 1947 he hitchhiked to Memphis to pursue his dream. A fight broke out between two men in the audience during one of his shows, starting a fire. After leaving the building, he realized that his guitar was still inside and went back in for it. He made it out, barely, with that guitar. Upon learning that the men were fighting over a woman named Lucille, he decided to name that guitar (and every other one he'd ever use) Lucille to remind himself never to fight over a woman.

Speaking of guitars, he always played a Gibson. Always. In fact, he and Gibson teamed up in the 1980s and crafted a guitar specifically inspired by him.

His playing style, in a word: legendary.

He was never just playing notes in a sequential order, no. He was massaging the emotions of anyone who could hear the music he created. He was story telling.

He integrated the sounds and techniques of the best guitar players that came before him, then added his own sound to it, becoming one of the most influential blues musicians in our nation's history in the process. His list of accomplishments would take up entire pages to list, including his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. 

Up until just before his death, he was still touring. He was still playing over 250 shows a year well into his 80s. He lived with diabetes for decades and became a well known spokesperson about the disease, proof of the fact that it's entirely possible to manage the condition and thrive with it. He refused to let it hold him back.

The news of his passing was hard to swallow. His gifts were many, his talent seemingly endless. B.B., simply put, was the blues. Rest now, B.B.

We'll miss you.

The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.


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