BB King to be buried in Mississippi hometown next week

21 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

B.B. King to be buried in Mississippi hometown next week.

GREENWOOD, Miss. He was unlike any other performer that ever graced a stage in Las Vegas, but not simply because of his unique musical style or his immeasurable influence. King family members will have a chance to visit his body at a Las Vegas funeral home ahead of a Friday public viewing and Saturday private memorial for the blues great. It is expected to arrive at the airport at about noon, and will be driven in a procession to Handy Park on Beale Street, where a tribute will be held that day.

For years, King has been suffering from type II diabetes, and has reportedly been in hospice care for the past two weeks. “Global streams of the musician’s works have skyrocketed 9,800 percent on Spotify in the past 24 hours, according to the streaming service. King will be buried on Saturday, May 30 on the grounds of a museum dedicated to his life in Indianola, a small Mississippi Delta town where his career began. Attorneys representing one of King’s daughters against King’s longtime business agent and power-of-attorney, LaVerne Toney, said Thursday’s family-only viewing was a compromise reached during a Monday meeting with a court probate commissioner. Attorneys Russel Geist and Brent Bryson say Commissioner Wesley Yamashita set the date while rejecting a bid by daughter Karen Williams to take control of King’s estate.

This weekend, the museum is continuing the celebration of Indianola’s favorite son with two days of events, notably a Sunday concert headlined by the North Mississippi Allstars. King moved here from Manhattan in 1975 amid dreams of “sunshine and space,” as he recounted in his 1996 autobiography Blues All Around Me, and Las Vegas remained his home up until his death May 14 at the age of 89. Yet despite having a legend living in our midst for the last 40 years, we never really got the chance to embrace the beloved bluesman as one of our own. King’s health was an issue in his decision to discontinue the tradition last year, but the museum will continue to honor him with an annual celebration. On Saturday, B.B.’s Bikes, Blues & BBQ Blowout will take place on the museum grounds from noon until 6 p.m., with entertainment from the Big Tyme Rhythm and Blues Band and the Pearl Street Jumpers from Cleveland.

On the rare occasions when he did take a break, his tour bus could be seen parked outside his home in Rancho Circle, the only outward sign that he was back in town. He moved to Indianola when he was 17 and spent many of his formative years there, driving a tractor on a plantation and playing gospel and blues music in churches and clubs, on street corners and the radio, before moving to Memphis in 1948. It was a personal honor for King, a self-proclaimed “Sinatra nut” whose favorite album was the Chairman of the Board’s 1955 classic In the Wee Small Hours.

King also played the Las Vegas Hilton lounge while Elvis Presley headlined in the showroom in the 1970s, but his performances in his adopted hometown after that were usually one-nighters while on tour, as well as the occasional show at his eponymous blues club at the Mirage, which closed in November 2012 after four years of operation. He was ranked by Rolling Stone Magazine as No. 6 on its 2011 list of the 100 greatest guitarists, and considered a major influence on other blues and rock guitarists.

Lil’ Ray Neal from Baton Rouge has been a regular performer at the homecoming, and 24-year-old Marquise Knox, who opened for King as a teenager, is coming down from St. Perhaps King’s propensity for life on the road underscored his continual quest for acceptance and adoration after losing his mother and grandmother as a child. It was while working at radio station WDIA in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1949 that King was dubbed the “Beale Street Blues Boy,” which was shortened to “Blues Boy” and eventually “B.B.” He played to black audiences early in his career, but fell out of style with younger blacks when rock ’n’ roll exploded on the scene in the 1950s and soul music took over the airwaves in the ’60s.

It was only when white hippie kids began coming to his shows in the late 1960s and young guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield and Johnny Winter began praising him that the 15-time Grammy Award winner began to find the crossover success that would help define him. King will always be a hero and ambassador of the American dream and brotherhood of mankind,” says Luther Dickinson of the Allstars. “His work ethic is an inspiration to all, no matter what your trade.” The tradition of a late night Sunday concert at Club Ebony continues this year with a show by Nashville’s Pat McLaughlin and his son Jamie, with tickets available in advance via the museum.

Toward the end of his life, King’s shows were virtually color-blind, the audience a societal melting pot that shared a love of the man and his music. Also this weekend in Indianola is the Blues Biscuit Festival, held both inside and outside the Blue Biscuit bar/restaurant, which is located across the street from the museum.

I had the fortune of seeing King perform at the 2008 Bonnaroo music festival plus the last half-dozen shows he played in Vegas, and while his energy onstage ebbed with each subsequent performance, the audience’s outpouring of affection grew each time with the realization that it could be the final time any of us got to hear King make his trademark guitar “Lucille” sing with joy. King first began making official homecoming visits in 1973, when he made arrangements with Charles Evers to perform at an event acknowledging the 10th anniversary of the murder of Evers’ brother, civil rights activist Medgar Evers. King continued to headline that event — held at various venues in central Mississippi — until several years ago, and in the 1980s began including performances in Indianola as part of his weeklong homecoming.

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