Shake It Up And Go : B.B. King (part two)©2008JCMarion


Beginning the new year of 1956, B. B. King is set for thirty one nighters in the state of Florida. "Crying Won't Help You" and a great cover of Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Sixteen Tons" is out on RPM # 451. Norman Granz "Rock & Roll Jubilee" at L.A.'s Shrine Auditorium stars B.B. King and also features Ernie Freeman, Marie Knight, Hal Singer, Little Willie Littlefield, Shirley Gunter, The Medallions, and Dreamers. In March of 1956 "Did You Ever Love A Woman?" and "Let's Do The Boogie" on # 457 is issued. In May B.B. wins the Pittsburgh Courier's music poll as the top male R & B singer. Houston dj "Dizzy Lizzie" is in reality Gladys Hill, former female vocalist with the B.B. King band. "Dark Is The Night (parts one and two) " an instrumental on # 459 is a surprise seller on the West Coast. In August King signs a new three year recording contract with Modern-RPM. The label plans some LP releases by King in the future. Another edition of the B.B. King band is in place and is comprised of Kenny Sands on trumpet, Lawrence Burdine, Floyd Newman, and Johnny Board on saxes, Millard Lee on piano, Jaymie Merritt on bass, and Ted Curry on drums. "Sweet Little Angel" and "Bad Luck" is released in August on #468. In September Elmore Morris joined the B.B. King band as a featured vocalist. The B.B. King - Louis Jordan show set many attendance records in the South during their recent tour. In November "On My Word Of Honor" is a big immediate seller. The flip side is "Bip Bam" on RPM # 479. In December once again, King will be part of the talent at WDIA's annual benefit concert in Memphis. Also in that city B.B. King starts his own record label to be called Blues Boy Kingdom. He will not appear on the new label because he is under contract to Modern-RPM, but showcase new talent from around the country. B.B. King might be called the "new" King Of The One Nighters. During the year he logged more than three hundred forty one night appearances throughout the country.

In February of 1957 RPM Records tries something new with a recording session with B.B. King. They used a large orchestra with lush arrangements to try some songs with an eye toward the pop music market. "You Don't Know" and "Early In The Morning" is released by RPM on # 486. Also that month King did a week at the 5-4 Ballroom in Los Angeles. "How Do I Love You" and "You Can't Fool My Heart" is King's latest record for RPM on # 490. This is followed by "Trouble Trouble Trouble" and "I Want To Get Married" on # 492 in late April. Another great crowd at the annual Easter show to the Civic Auditorium in Houston, Texas, with Elmore Morris. Both sides of #492 sell well in varied areas of the country. In June Modern Records releases its first LP of tunes by B.B. King on their Crown subsidiary label on # 5020. In late June "Be Careful With A Fool" and "Quit My baby" is released on RPM # 494. B.B.'s own record label Blues Boy Kingdom located on Beale Street in Memphis has released "Get Out And Go" and "Farewell Blues" by Rosetta Perry and the Millard Lee combo. Lee is a pianist in King's band. In September "I Wonder" and "I Need You So Bad" is the latest on RPM # 498. In November eight members of B.B. King's band are involved in a bad accident near Dallas, Texas. Two truckers are killed in the mishap but the members of the band escaped serious injury. Closing out the year with decent sales on his latest record, King readies a new tour of the mountain states. "The Keys To The Kingdom" and "My Heart Belongs To You" are the songs on the final RPM release on # 501.

In 1958 B.B. King tours Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah early in the year. The Modern and RPM labels are phased out by the company now known as Crown Recording Corporation. B.B. recorded for RPM for close to a decade. They will also start a new label to be called Kent Records. In March B.B. King joins Clifton "King Bee" Smith in Houston for a big record hop. In March King's first record for the newly formed Kent label is released - "Why Do Everything Happen To Me?" and "You Know I Go For You" on # 301. In April King signs an eighteen month recording contract with the new Kent label. In June King joins John Lee Hooker at WNJR's George Hudson for his second "Down Home Ball" in Newark, New Jersey. In late June Crown issues its second B.B. King LP album called simply "The Blues" on # 5063. In July Kent # 307 features the songs "Don't Look Now But I've Got The Blues" and "Days Of Old" by B.B. In October "Please Accept My Love" and "You've Been An Angel" are released on Kent # 315. "Accept" ends the year as a good seller in Memphis and New Orleans. 1959 starts off for B.B. King as "Please Accept My Love" is selling big in Los Angeles. In February "Worry Worry" and "I Am" is out on Kent # 317, and followed by "The Fool" and "Come By Here" on #319. Mildred Jones, King's female vocalist records on her own for the Marquee label. In June "A Lover's Plea" and "Woman I Love" is released on Kent # 325. "Time To Say Goodbye" and "Everyday I Have The Blues" with an augmented big band is released by Kent on # 327. At years end "Mean Old Frisco" and "Sugar Mama" is released on Kent #329.

Starting the new decade of the sixties B.B. King finds himself relegated to the group of blues artists that began the musical trend that led to rock 'n roll, and find themselves reduced to records that have paltry sales and playing second tier venues that draw upon name value of the performers. In 1960 King;s newest band includes Kenny Sands and Henry Boozer on trumpets, Puma Davis on trombone, Lawrence Burdine, Johnny Board, and Barney Hubert on saxes, Millard Lee on piano, Marshall Yor on bass, and Sonny Freeman on drums. A series of singles for Kent are recorded but none of them were top sellers in the R & B markets. "My Own Fault" / "Got A Right To Love My baby" on # 333; "Partin Time" / "Good Man Gone Bad" on # 346; "Walkin Dr. Bill" / "You Lost Your Good Thing Now" on # 350; "Things Are Not The Same" / "Fishing After Me" on # 351; "Bad Luck Soul" / "Get Out Of Here" on # 353; "Understand" / "Hold That Train" on # 358; "Peace Of Mind" / "Someday" on # 360; and "Bad Case Of Love" / "You're Breaking My Heart" on # 362. King now recorded with a more stripped down band that included Kenny Sands on trumpet, Johnny Board on sax, Duke Jethro on organ and piano, Leo Lauchie on bass, and Sonny Freeman on drums. They continued to record singles for Kent until the spring of 1962 when B.B. King moved to ABC Records after more than thirteen years with Modern-RPM-Kent. Even so in 1964 a release by Kent of the tune "Rock Me Baby" on # 393 was his first side to crack the pop music charts. By the mid sixties King concentrated his recording efforts on LP albums as he was discovered by a whole new audience.

The new audience of hip young White rock fans had been advised of King's importance by a slew of British musicians. B.B. opened up for the Rolling Stones on their 1969 American tour. That year he also appeared for a well received show at the Royal Albert Hall in London. B.B. King was now on the Bluesway label which was an offshoot of ABC Records. In 1968 "Paying The Cost To Be The Boss" on Bluesway #61015 briefly made the pop charts. It was another single for Bluesway in 1970 that became the biggest seller in King's career (barely outselling "Every Day I Have The Blues" from back in 1955 - his other million seller). The song was "The Thrill Is Gone" recorded with a large orchestra with a string section. The tune on Bluesway #61032 was a top fifteen seller on the national sales charts and remained there for more than two months. In the early seventies King was back on the ABC label and had three more records that made the national pop charts. "Ask Me No Questions" on # 11290; "To Know You Is To Love You" on # 11373; and "I Like To Live The Love" on # 11406 all were in the top forty best sellers. The early seventies also saw King score with three LP albums that made the best seller lists. "Completely Well" (featuring "The Thrill Is Gone") on Bluesway # 6037 was a top forty seller while two top twenty five sellers for ABC followed. "Indianola Mississippi Seeds" on ABC # 713, and "Live In Cook County Jail" on # 723.B.B. began to receive universal acceptance for his talent from then on as he was recognized as a major influence on so many new young players on the music scene. He has played all over the world, appeared on stage at many blues and rock festivals, is a multiple Grammy award winner (including a lifetime achievement award), celebrated at the Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts, and was selected for inclusion in the Rhythm & Blues Foundation and Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. His name adorns two music clubs-one in Memphis and one in New York City.

There are many cds that feature the music and artistry of B.B. King. Keeping in mind the factor of duplication, this is a representative selection of recordings available, though this is certainly not a complete listing. A quick overview is "Greatest Hits" on MCA from 1996 with 16 tracks. Covering the early years are : "Original Hits" on Virgin US with 40 tracks from the first on Bullet to 1962 on Kent. A shorter version is "Do The Boogie" also on Virgin has 20 tracks. For a more completist collection there is "King Of The Blues" for MCA in 1992 with 77 tracks on 4 cds each one covering a different time in the career of B.B. King beginning with the Bullet sides. Finally there is "The Vintage Years" from Ace (UK) with 107 tracks total covering 1949-1964. "Singing The Blues" / "The Blues" is a double package of the two LPs released by RPM in the late fifties on a remastered cd on Virgin with 24 tracks. There are re-mastered cds of original LPs from King such as "Indianola Mississippi Seeds" from MCA ('89) of the original 1970 LP with nine tracks. "Live And Well" and "Completely Well" both from MCA of the original 1969 LPs, and "Together For The First Time" and "Together Again" both from the original LPs in the mid-seventies with Bobby "Blue" Bland on MCA. Then there are the live albums such as the landmark "Live At The Regal" on MCA with 10 tracks, "Live In Cook County Jail" from MCA with eight tracks, "Live At The Apollo" on GRP with 10 tracks, "Live In Japan" on MCA from 1999 with 13 tracks, and "Night Of Blistering Blues Live" on MPG in 2005 with Dr. John, Etta James, Eric Clapton, Albert King, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and others. Some other interesting packages are : "Riding With The King" on Reprise 2000 with Eric Clapton on 12 tracks, "Christmas Collection" from MCA 2003 with thirteen holiday songs, "Blues Summit" on MCA featuring 13 tracks of duets with Billy Guy, Lowell Fulson, Albert Collins, and others, "Chronicles" from MCA in 2005 with three cds - "Live At The Regal", "Blues Is King", and "Live In Cook County Jail". And finally - a DVD from White Star of a performance by B.B. King at a Dallas club in "Live At Nick's".

B.B. King is acknowledged as a true original : a master of that superb American art form-the blues. Now in his seventh decade of performing, he now commands the largest, most wide reaching audience of his long career. It has been a long, and often times hard road for King. But at the end his talent won out and his genius recognized. He remains brilliantly singular.

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