Spencer contributed a BB King tribute to Blues Music Magazine's special edition.
The first time I saw B.B. King perform was at the 1969 Ann Arbor Blues Festival. He was explosive, exciting, and the very picture of dignity. A few months later, he opened a show for the Rolling Stones in Fort Collins, Colorado, and while the situation was wildly different, he was once again exciting and dignified. My friends and I had worn the grooves off our copies of B.B. King, Live At The Regal, and his live shows delivered every ounce of the promise implied on that amazing record.
Fast forward 15 years or so to the legendary La Cigale Theatre in Paris, France. B.B. King was the headliner, and I was the support act along with a trio. We had been in France for a month, and my bass player was quite unhappy when our tour manager informed us we would be playing an extra show and he had changed all our tickets accordingly. When we arrived at the venue with my grumpy bass player, I had an interview with a journalist, so my band went backstage to the dressing rooms. By the time I was finished with the interview, B.B.’s dressing room door was closed, but my bass player was beaming and going on and on about what a wonderful man B.B. King was, and how he had talked with him and my drummer as if they were all old buddies and on and on. He was transformed, and he was happy.
After our opening set, B.B. went on stage with his killer band and told the audience how much he’d enjoyed our music, and we got another round of enthusiastic applause. Then B.B. leaned into the microphone and said something like, “Do you want to know a secret?”
Of course, the audience howled, “Oui, oui,” in response. B.B. once again leaned into the microphone and stage whispered that it was my bass player’s birthday. Again, the audience
went crazy while B.B. led them in a weird French version of Happy Birthday.
B.B. King certainly didn’t have to do that, but it made for one of the most unforgettable evenings in that bass player’s life. It also made a lifelong fan out of me.
– Spencer Bohren