'B.B. King Was The Man': Slash, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Keb' Mo' & More Salute the Blues Icon
“I don’t think I’ve done the best I could.”
So noted a reflective B.B. King in a video clip that opened Icon: The Life and Legacy of B.B. King, a live tribute concert held in Beverly Hills, California, Thursday evening. But as Slash, Keb’ Mo’, Susan Tedeschi, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, ZZ Ward and others played and sang their hearts out, it was more than evident that the King of Blues and 15-time Grammy winner did do his best -- and gave back so much more -- during his storied career.
“B.B. gave me inspiration, friendship, advice and the stage,” said guitarist Joe Bonamassa, who opened for King at the age of 8. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be standing here.”
Or as fellow blues icon Bobby “Blue” Bland succinctly summarized in one of the several video clips shown throughout the evening: “B.B. King was the man.”
That sentiment -- as well as blistering performances -- reverberated off the walls of the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts as each performer paid homage to the late legend, who passed away May 14, 2015. In addition to the aforementioned musicians, the stellar lineup for the 90-minute show included Derek Trucks, Jimmie Vaughan, Joe Louis Walker, Buddy Guy protégé Quinn Sullivan and James Bolden, a 35-year member of King’s band. The sold-out event doubled as the first-ever joint fundraiser for the Grammy Museum and Grammy Foundation.
With music director Jimmy Vivino and his Basic Cable Band from the Conan show as the evening’s house band, the entire musical cast dove right in performing King’s classic “The Thrill Is Gone.” From there it was a roller-coaster ride through King’s vast repertoire, including “I Like to Live the Love” (Keb’ Mo’), “You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now/Woke Up This Morning“ (Shepherd), “Payin’ the Cost to be the Boss” (Walker), “To Know You Is to Love You” (Ward), “Hummingbird” (Bonamassa), “How Blue Can You Get’ (Tedeschi, Trucks) and “Rock Me, Baby” (Slash). Then the entire cast assembled again for the rousing finale, “When Love Comes to Town.”
Also sharing reflections via video: Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt and Buddy Guy. And making a special guest appearance on center stage was a B.B. King Lucille 2015 electric guitar. Donated by Gibson Memphis and signed by all the performers, the guitar was put up for silent auction.
Proceeds raised from “Icon: The Life and Legacy of B.B. King” will support the Grammy Foundation and Grammy Museum, two charitable organizations of The Recording Academy.