Published February 19, 2008
This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," February 18, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Who doesn't know this man, the king of blues, B.B. King? But now you will really get to know him.
He is 82 years old and has been performing for more than 50 years, with 15 Grammys under his belt. And tonight you will get an inside look at him.
B.B. King is releasing a new CD entitled "Live," and you get to join him in my home town and Appleton, Wisconsin behind the scenes of his concert, and even inside his tour bus.
VAN SUSTEREN: How many concerts a year do you do?
B.B. KING, MUSICIAN: Now we have cut down quite a bit. I'm 82 years old now, so I've stopped doing — we used to average, until last year, I believe, about 250 concerts per year. This year I'll probably do about 100.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is it work for you, or is it fun?
KING: Both. It's both.
VAN SUSTEREN: Who gave you your first guitar?
KING: No one.
VAN SUSTEREN: Where did you get it?
KING: Bought it from a guy that lived not too far from Mike Boston, the man I worked for. And he had this little red Stella guitar, and he said he would sell it because I went nuts when I saw it. I was making $15 a month then.
VAN SUSTEREN: Doing what?
KING: Being what they call a house boy — everything; anything that needed to be done around the house. Chores was picking up chips to make fire and milking cows. I milked 20 cows a day. As I said, I was making $15 a month then, I asked my boss would he buy it for me and take out half of it the first month and half the next. So he did, and that is how I got my first guitar.
VAN SUSTEREN: So you picked it up, and were you just a natural?
KING: I would sit on the street corners in my hometown of Indianola, Mississippi, and I would play. And, generally, I would start playing gospel songs. People would come by on the street — you live in time square, you know how they do it — they would bunch up. And they would always compliment me on gospel tunes, but they would tip me when I played blues.
Now you know why I'm a blues singer.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, everyone knows who Lucille, your guitar. Why is your guitar named "Lucille"?
KING: I used to play — when I first started trying to be professional, I disk jockey from 1949 to 1955 in Memphis, Tennessee, and I was quite popular there as a disk jockey.
And I could go over at a place called Twist, Arkansas — it's still there — and a guy had a nightclub over there. I would do, as they say in Las Vegas today, forward. In other words, you go play and he doesn't guarantee you anything, but if you're lucky and you have quite a few people come in, you get most of the money that comes in through the doors. So you may make yourself 50 dollars, 60 dollars, 100 dollars, maybe.
And it would get quite cold there in Twist, Arkansas, so they would take a something like a big garbage pail — picture a big pail — set it in the middle of the dance floor and half fill it with kerosene. They would light that kerosene, and that's what we used for heat.
Today, if somebody did that, I would start running out of here. But when you're young, like you guys, you are daring and do anything.
So this particular night, two guys start to fight. One knocked the other one over on this container. And when they did it spilled on the floor. It was already burning so it looked like a river of fire. Everyone started to run for the front door to get out, including B.B. King.
But when I got out, I realized that I left my guitar. It wasn't the same little red guitar; this was another one. And I went back for it.
And when I went back to get my guitar — the building was a wooden building burning rapidly, so it started to fall in around me and I almost lost my life trying to save it.
The next morning we found that these two guys that were fighting were fighting about a lady that worked in the little nightclub. I never did meet her, but I learned that her name was Lucille. I named the guitar Lucille to remind me not to do a thing like that again. That's how it came about.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is there an original Lucille and there have been subsequent Lucilles?
KING: The original Lucille, I would pay $100,000 to get it back.
VAN SUSTEREN: Where is the original Lucille?
KING: If I knew I would get it.
VAN SUSTEREN: When was the last time you saw the original Lucille?
KING: In Brooklyn. I went up to visit a friend one night and left it in the trunk of my car. That year most of General Motors' cars, the trunk key would fit, but I didn't know it until that night.
Somebody went down and went in my trunk — I had an Oldsmobile, and they went into the Oldsmobile trunk of the car — took my guitar, the amplifier, and the battery out. That's the last time I have seen her.
And I would give $100000 for that original if I could get it back. I put out—I offered rewards: $5000, $10000 and so on.
I guess whoever got it never knew what they was getting because my name wasn't on that one. Nobody has ever came up with it.
VAN SUSTEREN: How many CDs or albums have you done?
KING: I have to be honest with you, I really don't know. But the last time I tried to count, I think it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 CDs and LPs combined; but singles, it's over 500.
VAN SUSTEREN: You have a new one that just came out.
VAN SUSTEREN: That's what I want people to know about. And that's a live concert?
KING: It is live. I was trying my best to show the people that don't know me or know how I perform what I do on stage, I was trying to give them a little bit of a lesson of what I do and how I do it when I'm playing concerts.
And I think I did pretty good. Maybe I talk too much on it, but I think it's pretty good.
VAN SUSTEREN: Which song do you think the audience wants to hear every night?
KING: "The Thrill is Gone."
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you enjoy playing that as much as everyone wants to hear it?
KING: I will tell you a little secret and you better not tell it.
VAN SUSTEREN: We won't tell anybody, don't worry. It's just between us.
KING: OK, it's just between us: I play it every night as I feel it every night, not as I recorded it when I first recorded it. I play it every night as I feel it then, so it's fresh, it's always fresh.
So no, I never get tired of playing it.
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