Interview:Encounters of a King

Part 1: B.B. Rides Solo and with Eric Clapton

Part 2: B.B. Rides Solo and with Eric Clapton

Part 3: Learning from the King/B.B.'s Blues Secrets




B.B. King: Encounters of a King


Part 1: B.B. Rides Solo and with Eric Clapton


Warm and welcoming, B.B. King greets visitors with a wide grin and a firm handshake. He may be 73 years old and on the last steep bend of a long and prosperous musical career, but you'd never know it. King looks as lively and energetic as the solos that squiggle, quiver and leap through his myriad albums. And he's more prolific than most artists half his age.



Hot on the heels of last year's vivacious Louis Jordan tribute, Let the Good Times Roll, King has recorded not one, but two new albums of grace, skill and wit. The first, Making Love is Good For You, sees B.B. returning to the spicy, spirited flavors of his 1998 album B.B. on the Bayou. And the second, Riding with the King, is an album blues and rock fans will foam at the mouth for -- a long-awaited collaboration with Eric Clapton. It's a record that celebrates King's illustrious career, cementing King's legendary status and definitively demonstrating the influence he's had on Clapton, one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time.



The 12-song disc features two newly written cuts, five blues classics and five numbers handpicked by Clapton, that span King's nearly 50 year legacy. Not only does Riding With the King stand out as a showcase of top-notch talent, it resonates with the warmth and mutual admiration of two players who love what they do and adore each other's music.



And while King may act like he doesn't know much music theory or care a great deal about chord progressions, he's far more knowledgeable than you might expect (see accompanying video guitar lesson for proof). recently sat down with the King to talk about Making Love, acoustic performances and the thrill of working with one of his heroes. Let's talk a little bit about your latest solo album, Making Love is Good For You.


B.B. King: I think it is. (Laughs). Um, yeah, but,


King: (Laughs) I caught you off guard. Uh, maybe a little. Anyway, it's nice to hear you going back to a traditional blues sound after last year's jazz-based Louis Jordan tribute record Let the Good Times Roll. What were you trying to do with the new record?


King: Well, we had a lot of good luck with B.B. on the Bayou, and this was sort of a follow up to it, but we tried to add some different flavor to the second one. And for some reason I thought "Makin' Love is Good for You" was a good tune. I still think so. So we called the record that. I wasn't sure whether everyone could accept it at the moment, but it seemed like they're going for it pretty well. Usually when we play now, at the end of the concert ["Makin' Love is Good for You"] is sort of a going away song for me, and people seem to really get into it because it's kind of uptempo and the lyrics are not bad. It's not vulgar lyrics as far as I'm concerned. I think that the lyrics are fine, and it tells a story. And then your fans go home and make love?


King: If they desire. Now, we're not planting anything in anybody's head. But I don't think we have to. (Laughs) But I really think it's a good tune. That's about it. Seeing that you're such a distinguished veteran of the music community, was anyone surprised by your choice of album title?


King: Nobody's told me that yet. I spoke to my management about it and he thought it was very nice to use that title. But we got some other good songs. "Making Love" is just one of my favorites. But I also like "Since I Fell For You," "Got to Leave This Woman." A whole lot of tunes that I think are good. Is it fun to be playing straight-out blues again after the jazzy departure with the Louis Jordan record?


King: I never got out of it. And on the one with Eric Clapton, one thing we do is "I'm Gonna Love you Come Rain or Shine." Well, God, I've never done anything like that. So, hey, I try everything. Let's talk about Riding With The King, your collaboration with Clapton. When did you two first meet?


King: Back in 1967, and I believe it was at a place called Caf· A Go-Go here in New York City. I think it was his first time in the U.S., and there was a whole lot of things going on that night. It was sort of like a jam session. We got together with Al Kooper from Blood, Sweat and Tears. We had Jimi Hendrix and quite a few other people there, and we had a good time. That was my first meeting with Eric. Have you been in touch over the years?


King: From time to time. He's done a lot of things that have helped me in many ways. I remember the first video I did. He was touring over here, and he came and sat in with us on it. And he's done several other things for me. He's been a good friend.


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3