By now you surely know that blues legend B.B. King died last week at age 89. I did a lot of deep Google searching to find things connecting B.B. and Elvis, and I found a few to use in this post celebrating the blues master’s life and career. Most interesting were the quotes B.B King said about Elvis over the years, interspersed here between a few photos.
An early photo of Elvis and B.B. King – occasion and place unknown.
“He used to come around and be around us a lot. There was a place we used to go and hang out at on Beale Street. People had little pawn shops there and a lot of us used to hang around in certain of these places, and this is where I met him.”
From: ELVIS – His Life from A to Z by Fred W. Worth and Steve D. Tamerius
Photo taken of Elvis, Claudia Ivy, and B.B. King at the WDIA Goodwill Review on December 7, 1956. Elvis and George Klein hung out backstage. Elvis made a brief emergence from behind the curtain, and received rousing applause from the audience. Also on the program were Ray Charles, the Moonglows, and Rufus Thomas.
“When I first met Elvis, I didn’t think too much of Elvis Presley. I thought he was a handsome young man, but he wasn’t singing as he started to sing later. So I didn’t think too much about him – his guitar or his singing – at the time. But I thought he was a nice person – it wasn’t that I disliked him.”
Elvis must have like the plaid coat B.B. wore in the above photo. Check out the jacket Elvis wore on the day of his induction into the Army.
“Finally I heard him do some Arthur Big Boy Crudup. I heard him do some of those songs, and then I started to turn my head a little bit. That ain’t the same Elvis Presley that I been hearing. And he went on from there doing some other things that sound black to me. That’s when I started having respect, respect, respect. And he sorta earned it, earned that respect from me at that time.”
This is B.B. King in concert with Bobby Blue Bland, who got his start as B.B.’s limo driver. They were together back in 1999, the only time I ever saw B.B. perform.
It was such a wonderful concert, even though B.B. performed while sitting on a chair for most of the show.
Elvis also had contact with Bobby Blue Bland back in the early days of their careers.
“I remember Elvis as a young man hanging around the Sun Studio. Even then, I knew this kid had a tremendous talent. He was a dynamic young boy. His phraseology, his way of looking at a song, was as unique as Sinatra’s. I was a tremendous fan, and had Elvis lived, there would have been no end to his inventiveness.”
This is B.B. King’s Blues Club in Memphis. During Elvis Week 2002, two fine ladies and I drank and danced there for hours. We closed the place down and then went to the Candlelight Vigil. My knees killed me the next day.
This isn’t the band we had that night, but you get the idea. The girls were from Japan and Canada, which illustrates a fact about Elvis Week. People come from all over, and it’s so easy to make new friends. Elvis fans are just good people.
Here is an Elvis/B.B. connection you may not be aware of. The white sign says “B.B. King and Elvis Presley Welcome Center.” The huge mosaic egg says, “MEMPHIS – Home of the Blues, Birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll.”
If you’ve got enough time during your next visit to Memphis, you can check it out. While you are down on the banks of the Mississippi, be sure to take in Mud Island Park, too.
“Finally I had a chance to meet him and I found out that he really was something else. He started to be more and more and more. And he was still like that to me, Elvis was, until he died. As far as I was concerned, he was growing all the time.”
“He was unique. And he loved the blues, it’s a pity he didn’t do more.”
Good bye, B.B. We’ll miss you. Say hi to Elvis for us.
© 2015 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net
Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.