Remembering B.B. King and Robert Johnson

May 14th marked the anniversary of the day B.B. King died during his sleep in Las Vegas in 2015.

On May 27, 2015 his body was flown to Memphis where a bass band marched in front of his hearse for the funeral procession down Beale Street. They played “When the Saints Go Marching In.

He lays in rest at the B.B. King Museum down Route 61 in his hometown of Indianola, Mississippi.

B.B. King, October 10, 2015, Majestic Theater, San Antonio, Texas (Photo: Jack Dennis)

I had the honor of interviewing King in his office/bedroom at the back of his $1.4 million tour bus behind the Majestic Theater in San Antonio.

Typically I interviewed stars in their dressing rooms or a separate room downstairs at the Majestic. When invited to come aboard his 45′ Provost Coach, I was delighted. It definitely added to the personal excitement of meeting King.

Before the greatest bluesman walked walked on stage that Sunday night, October 10, 2010, a gracious audience was already standing.

The B.B. King Blues Band warmed up the crowd to an immediate standing ovation and no one sat down until the King of Blues finally commanded it.

“Thank you San Antonio, please set down,” he grinned and hand motioned everyone down.

The 85-year-old performer remained seated throughout the concert but his voice boomed as strong as ever, even after over 10,000 concerts and 62 years of live shows.

Awarded his 15th Grammy in 2009 in the traditional Blues Album category for “One Small Favor,” King would weave in and out of various classics, like “The Thrill Is Gone,” “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” and “You Are My Sunshine” with a generous slower groove and back to an occasional take-charge seriousness.

“Come on man,” King turned around to his drummer who battled the beats to his licks on the beloved Gibson guitar, Lucille. “You know, I’m from Mississippi…and…I carry a blade!”

King was telling the appreciative audience about the ways of ladies when a woman from the audience seductively walked up towards the stage.

“I’m not saying a word,” King graveled in a half smiling tone. He pulled his head to the side and back–and just watched with intrigue. Fiercely, he blasted Lucille into another roaring blues lick.

Just an hour before, in his bus parked on College Street behind the theater, King told me about the time– a few years before Elvis Presley walked into Sam Phillips’ Recording Service at Sun Studios in Memphis– that he walked in as Riley B. King to begin his recording career in 1951.

When he was barely 11 years old, one of King’s greatest influences was working across the street from the Majestic Theater recording his first songs.

In 1937, a seed of Rhythm and Blues was historically planted on the corner of Houston and St. Mary’s streets in what some call the “Magical Corner” of San Antonio.

Far from the Mississippi Delta, were an unhappy Robert Johnson was unwilling to stay trapped in the sharecropper’s world of backbreaking work with such little return, the young man recorded sixteen songs in the Gunter Hotel.

Robert Johnson invented the Blues at the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, 1937.

It changed the music world forever. Even today, artists like Eric Clapton and John Cougar Mellencamp pay homage to Robert Johnson’s contribution at that building. Some even come to record in the same room their inspiration did.

Young Riley King would listen to Johnson regularly.

“It gives me good feelings, just knowing I’m right across the street tonight from where he recorded way back then,” he smiled.

B.B. King, the most popular bluesman the universe has ever known, engraved the Blues in the solid rock of our American culture. His fifty-plus albums produced 15 Grammy Awards and earned him inductions in the Blues Foundation and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Note: I was so intrigued with B.B. Kings touring coach, I later did more research.

The plush motorcoach had over $200,000 worth of electronics inside. Superior Interiors of Nashville customized the inside and Digital Home Lifestyles of Phoenix installed electronics.

The bus too over 100 hours of design time and 300 hours of installation. He had over 20,000 CDs and 6,000 DVDs to access and enjoy at his whim.

Entertainment Interviews

Texans Jack & Dodie View All →

Raised in San Antonio, Jack Dennis’ early experiences were as a newspaper reporter and private investigator. With a Texas State University bachelor’s degree, Jack studied journalism, education and psychology. He was the founding vice-president of Sigma Delta Chi, the Association of Professional Journalists at the University. Jack has received numerous awards, including Investigative Reporter of the Year from Rocky Mountain Press Association, David Ashworth Community Award, and Leadership in Management.
Some of the people and groups Jack has interviewed include:
Music
Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, George Strait, Roy Orbison, Justin Timberlake, Steven Tyler, Freddie Mercury, Kenny Rogers, Kenny Loggins, Jackson Browne, Steve Wariner, Tanya Tucker, Scotty Moore, Fats Domino, Patty Page, Tommy Roe, Emmy Lou Harris, Johnny Rivers, Charly McClain, Kinky Friedman, John McFee, Guy Allison & Patrick Simmons (Doobie Brothers) , Randy Bachman (BTO), Jim Messina, Todd Rundgren, Alvin Lee, Gary Puckett, The Ventures, Freddy Cannon, Augie Meyer, Christopher Cross, Whiskey Myers, Sha Na Na (John “Bowzer” Baumann), Flash Cadillac, Jerry Scheff, John Wilkinson, Darrell McCall, and more.
Politicians & News
George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Lady Bird Johnson, Greg Abbott, Rudolph Giuliani, Larry King, Jack Anderson, Tom Bradley, Connie Mack, and more.
Actors
Clint Eastwood, Mike Myers, Taylor Lautner, Cameron Diaz, Jerry Lewis, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Selena Gomez, Tippi Hedren, James Earl Jones, James Woods, Jim Nabors, Martha Raye, Rosalind Russell, June Lockhart, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Howie Mandel, Meg Ryan, Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, James Drury, Melanie Griffith, Nathan Lane, Alan Thicke, Lou Diamond Phillips, Clint Howard, Tony Sirico, Cesar Romero, Michael Berryman, Tracy Scoggins, William Windom, Warren Stevens and more.
Space Explorers
Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Wally Schirra, Dave Scott, Gene Cernan, Walt Cunningham, Scott Carpenter, Gene Kranz (NASA Flight Director), Ed Mitchell, Richard Gordon, Bruce McCandless, Vanentina Treshkova (first woman in space, Russia), Alex Leonov (first man to walk in space, Russian), Al Worden, Dee O’Hara (nurse to astronauts) and more.
Sports: Joe Torre, Roger Staubach, Bob Hayes, Billie Jean King, Manuela Maleeva, Drew Pearson, Bob Lilly, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, George Gervin, Tony Parker, Shannon Miller, Cathy Rigby, Bruce Bowen, Wade Boggs, Fernando Valenzuela, Bernie Kosar, Dale Murphy, Jim Abbott, Dick Bartell, Mike Schmidt, Dan Pastorini and more.
Notables
May Pang, Bob Eubanks, Vernon Presley, Vester Presley, Charlie Hodge, Joe Esposito, Rick Stanley (Elvis’ step-brother, Harold Lloyd (Elvis’ first cousin), Doyle Brunson, Kara Peller, Hank Meijer, Norman Brinkler, Stanley Marcus, Jerry King, Mac King, Nathan Burton, Zach Anner, Louie Anderson, Owen Benjamin, Steve Byrne and more.

As head of Facilities for a major retailer (H-E-B Food/Drugs) for 20 years, Jack co-founded Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association (PRSM) and was elected President to establish PRSM magazine. Jack is a writer, speaker, golf-concierge and happiness coach. He has researched and studied happiness for over 40 years.
Jack was a prolific writer for Examiner.com, with over 1,900 articles written in six years. His articles and stories have appeared in AXS Entertainment, The ROWDY Country Music, Memphis Flash, and numerous magazines.

He is author of “Miracles of Justice,” a true courtroom drama novel about social injustice and miracles.

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