Daniel de Visé and Harry Duncan discuss
King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King
by Daniel de Visé
published by Grove Atlantic Press
Riley “Blues Boy” King (1925-2015) was born into deep poverty in Jim Crow Mississippi. Wrenched away from his sharecropper father, B.B. lost his mother at age ten, leaving him more or less alone. Music became his emancipation from exhausting toil in the fields. Inspired by a local minister’s guitar and by the records of Blind Lemon Jefferson and T-Bone Walker, encouraged by his cousin, the established blues man Bukka White, B.B. taught his guitar to sing in the unique solo style that, along with his relentless work ethic and humanity, became his trademark. In turn, generations of artists claimed him as inspiration, from Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton to Carlos Santana and The Edge.
King of the Blues presents the vibrant life and times of a trailblazing giant. Witness to dark prejudice and lynching in his youth, B.B. performed incessantly (some 15,000 concerts in 90 countries over nearly 60 years)—in some real way his means of escaping his past. Several of his concerts, including his landmark gig at Chicago’s Cook County Jail, endure in legend to this day. His career roller-coasted between adulation and relegation, but he always rose back up. At the same time, his story reveals the many ways record companies took advantage of artists, especially those of color.
Daniel de Visé has interviewed almost every surviving member of B.B. King’s inner circle—family, band members, retainers, managers, and more—and their voices and memories enrich and enliven the life of this Mississippi blues titan, whom his contemporary Bobby “Blue” Bland simply called “the man.”
Daniel de Visé is the author of the critically acclaimed Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show and The Comeback: Greg LeMond, The True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France, and coauthor of I Forgot to Remember: A Memoir of Amnesia. He shared a 2001 Pulitzer Prize for his journalism and has worked at the Washington Post and Miami Herald, among other newspapers. He lives in Maryland.
Harry Duncan integrates years of experience as a Bay Area-based live music producer and as a dj who has played on festivals, tours and in concert with a wide variety of artists when producing and hosting In The Soul Kitchen, KCSM Radio’s weekly roots & rhythm radio show. Respected industry-wide as an innovator, Duncan spins a custom-tailored blend of all styles of soul, funk, r&b, blues, jazz, roots reggae, ska, Latin, African and World music on the radio and in performance. Duncan has appeared with The Roots, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, Trombone Shorty, Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples, Tower of Power, The Original Meters, Tedeschi-Trucks Band, Warren Haynes, India. Arie, Boz Scaggs, Aaron Neville, Charles Bradley, B.B. King, Femi Kuti, Bombino, Madness and The Specials among others. Be sure to catch Harry on In The Soul Kitchen on 91.1 FM every Sunday night at 8pm.
This event has been sponsored by the City Lights Foundation