He’s 83, has been recording for 60 years and was named the No. 3 guitarist of all-time by Rolling Stone magazine. He’s had hit records with Eric Clapton and U2. He also has an unparalleled list of honors and awards — including his 15th Grammy, Best Traditional Blues Album, which he won this year for 2008’s “One Kind Favor.”
B.B. King admits that he could’ve retired financially when he was 65. But, clearly, the thrill is not gone for the bona fide American music legend.
“I love people and I like what I’m doing,” explains King, who started his career as a radio DJ in Memphis. “I’m one of the guys that’s got a job that I’d do for nothing, if someone would pay my bills — but don’t tell that to the promoters!
“I intend to do it for as long as possible, as long as my health lets me. I’m diabetic, but other than that, my health is pretty good. I can get along pretty well. I don’t want to go fishing every day, and I don’t feel like watching Hoot Gibson, Roy Rogers and all those guys, the old movies I’m crazy about, cowboy movies. I couldn’t do that every day.
“So what else is there for me to do?”
King — who had 74 hits on the Billboard R&B charts, including “The Thrill is Gone,” between 1951-85 — is pleased that “more people know about me today” than perhaps at any other point of his career. And King is the first to note that he had no inkling he’d still be on the road playing his famous black Gibson “Lucille” guitar this late in his life.
“I wouldn’t have bet you that I would’ve got past 50 doing this,” he says with a laugh. “But I’m happy to be here. I feel that I’m very lucky. There’s a lot of us that aren’t around anymore, so I’m lucky that I’m not only still here but that people still buy my records and come to my concerts.”
B.B. King and Buddy Guy perform at 7:30 p.m. Monday (Feb. 16) at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $32.50-75. Call (313) 471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.
Send your thoughts and comments to