Originally created 12/16/04

B.B. King stays true to his music



B.B. King still feels blessed by the blues.

The legendary guitarist, 78, has made strapping on the guitar he lovingly calls Lucille and stepping out onto a stage a nearly nightly routine since the 1950s. Each time, his goal is the same - let his songs tell stories.

"All of us have something in common," Mr. King said in a recent telephone interview. "We have problems and joy, sadness and so many good things. I hear John Lee Hooker or Lightnin' Hopkins, and they were trying to tell a story to people.

"Two people running for president, they are doing the same thing - trying to reach people. We are all out saying what we think in a way we feel good about. That's what I try to do every night."

Mr. King performs Saturday at Bell Auditorium, 712 Telfair St.

He said his style is personified by his ability to play songs that adapt to his moods as a musician. He said each song, each note, is a reflection of B.B. King at that moment.

"I'll play the same way in Mississippi or Paris," he said. "I don't make any changes and I don't try to follow (blues legend) Robert Johnson or anyone else. That means playing the blues the way I feel it at that moment."

Mr. King said the blues, built around a very specific 12-bar style, allows for endless emotional exploration because it is so free of complication.

"It's the same with country," he said. "They are close cousins. They go right to the point, and that's the way it's meant to be. If you want to do a beautiful ballad, you can paint that picture. But for me, the blues are the most expressive thing there is."

The constant, he said, is excellence. He said that although he has played songs such as The Thrill Is Gone countless times, his job is to approach the music, the stories, as though it were the first time.

"My shows are like auditions," he said. "You're only as good, as far as I'm concerned, as your last show. And if you don't give the people everything, well, they won't be back."

Looking back over his career, Mr. King is himself amazed by his longevity. Reflecting on the secret of his success, he lets loose a sharp laugh.

"I wish I knew," he said. "I guess it's because I'm honest about what I do and how I do it. I haven't always had a halo over my head, and I've never claimed to. I just love to play the blues."

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.

Onstage

WHAT: B.B. King

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Bell Auditorium, 712 Telfair St.

COST: $40-$75. Call 724-2400.