Within a year of that first show at the Fillmore, King had a huge Top-40 hit with “The Thrill Is Gone,” as well as a new manager who was booking him into not only the new rock halls, but also into the upscale venues on the supper-club circuit. Almost overnight he’d moved from the fringe to the mainstream. In 1969 he appeared on “The Tonight Show,” and soon after he was the first blues musician from the Mississippi Delta to play on “American Bandstand.”
When he’s asked to cite the people whose playing has influenced him, King often talks about Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lonnie Johnson. But it may well have been the legendary Freddie Green, the guitarist in Count Basie’s big bands of the late ’30s and ’40s, who wielded the greatest influence.
But in the end, it perhaps tells you all you need to know about King that despite having been billed as “The King of the Blues” for more than 50 years, he doesn’t think of himself as a blues singer. “I don’t try to be a blues singer—I try to be an entertainer,” he said in another recent interview. These days King entertains with stories as much as with songs, but the spirit of the Rev. Fair still remains alive and well in every night’s performance.
B.B. King with special guest Beverly McClellan
8 p.m - Thursday, March 29
Tivoli Theatre - 709 Broad St.
(423) 757-5050 chattanoogaonstage.com