A bad night for the King

Published 10:37 am Saturday, April 26, 2014

by Frank Roberts

According to an Associated Press story, B.B. King, the “King Of the Blues” had some serious problems during a recent concert in St. Louis, with concertgoers complaining — rightly so, I guess — that his presentation was erratic, almost weird.

He sang just a handful of songs, offered bits and pieces of several songs, talked too much and his back-up band was erratic. Most embarrassing was his one-man 15-minute performance of “You Are My Sunshine.”

The author of the story would have done well to mention King’s age. He is 88 and, usually, still going strong.

King apologized for his problem, brought about by a 1,000-mile, 24-hour trip from his last engagement. (His people could have made better arrangements). Also, he is a diabetic and missed taking some of his medication.

Yes, the audience griped. They didn’t realize what he had been through. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, a blues legend, had a bad, very bad, night. So did Lucille, which as all his fans know, is the pet name for his guitar.

Many, many decades ago I had the pleasure of reviewing his concert. He was, if I remember correctly, at the Cavalier in Virginia Beach. The show was beautiful, exciting and free of gimmicks. It was the man and his music — more than enough.

I spent some time talking with him and found him to be affable, friendly, talkative, and a pure pleasure. His favorite topic of conversation was, of course, music. His favorite genre, of course, is the blues but he mixes it with jazz, swing and mainstream pop music.

So if he ever comes around to Hampton Roads again, check him out. It will be a highlight concert. It’s a wonder he finds time to sing. He has been married twice, has 15 children and about 50 grandchildren. By the way, he’s a licensed pilot.

One more thing: His favorite singer is Sinatra. I saw Sinatra in concert, and what a treat that was. Sirius satellite radio has a channel dedicated solely to him and his singing cohorts. It is hosted by daughters Tina and Nancy.

Wait! I did meet Sinatra. Well, his cousin Ray. He had two sons, and the youngest, Ray Jr., was a friend of mine when we were growing up. They lived in Forest Hills in Queens and were as nice as could be.

Ray Sr.’s chief claim to fame was as musical director for Mario Lanza. My favorite story concerns an engagement Mr. Sinatra had at a club in Vegas. On the marquee, they wanted to put the name of SINATRA in big capital letters. His first name was to be the equivalent of small print. He turned them down.

Remember Danica McKellar, who has been recently seen “Dancing With the Stars?” She is best known for portraying Winnie Cooper in a wonderful old sit-com, “The Wonder Years.”

The cute little girl, now a stunning woman, is a mathematical genius. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of California in Los Angeles, and has theorems bearing her name. Hey, mom, what’s a theorem?

They are based on the work she accomplished at UCLA. Oh, she also published several books about mathematics, one of which was a New York Times bestseller.

Beauty and brains. Nice.

During a 60-year career spanning newspapers, radio and television, Frank Roberts has been there and done that. Today, he’s doing it in retirement from North Carolina, but he continues to keep an eye set on Western Tidewater and an ear cocked on country music. Email him at froberts73@embarqmail.com.