When I was 8-years-old my father was murdered. I floundered for the next two years looking for something to take the pain go away.
I found a healing two years later when I started playing guitar and discovered the Blues and, in particular, the music of B.B. King. In the Blues of B.B. King I heard a music of courage and dignity. A way to accept one’s existence no matter how dark the shadows were.
By the time I was 15, I had become an adept guitar player of the Blues. B.B. King’s guitar and his voice are part of my DNA. Like rings of a tree.
When I was 19-years-old I first met B.B. King at a concert in Virginia Beach, Va. He took a group of us fans onto his bus which seemed like the height of luxury. I remembered thinking how gracious and kind this gentleman of the Blues was.
In the Blues of B.B. King I heard a music of courage and dignity. A way to accept one’s existence no matter how dark the shadows were.
When I was 30-years-old a friend’s band, The Blues Exchange, opened for B.B. King at the Cavalier Beach Hotel, again in Virginia Beach, Va.
A group of us waited for an audience with Mr. King. He was discussing a song that he wanted to cover called “One Room Country Shack.” He couldn’t remember the person who wrote it. I spoke up from the line, “Mercy Dee Walton.”
Some of friends from The Blues Exchange, Tom Parker and Sandy Martin, smiled knowingly. Tom said to B.B. “This is Michael Ingmire he is a great Blues guitarist and singer and a serious Blues historian.” B.B. replied, “He has to be a serious Blues historian if he knows who Mercy Dee Walton is.”
Another time I met B.B. in 1999 and we discussed his cousin Booker T. White who taught me how to play the slide guitar. He smiled as big as his guitar Lucille and said, “I learned so much from Booker and I owe him so much.” B.B. had stayed with Booker when he first came to Memphis back in the 1940’s.
The point of all this was that B.B. King always put his fans first and never had anything up his sleeve in his dealings with them.
I know he is in a rarified heaven and that every time one of us Blues guitar players bends a string another feather grows on B.B.’s wings.
Michael Ingmire is a musician, writer, and activist based in North Carolina. He is the uncle of Sean Smith, one of the four Americans killed during the attacks in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.