B.B. King, Lucille entertain hundreds

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 5, 2002

B.B. King rocks the house at Rainbow Hotel Casino as he performs to a sold-out crowd Wednesday night. (The Vicksburg Post/Melanie Duncan)

Blues legend B.B. King played Lucille, his guitar, for a sold-out audience of about 900 at Rainbow Arena Wednesday night and cut the ribbon for a new blues-oriented lounge in Rainbow Casino.

He also took a little time to talk about his own experience and perhaps show some enthusiasm about the increasing appreciation of blues music back where it started.

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King was born Sept. 16, 1925, in Itta Bena and moved to Memphis in 1947 to make music. “I’m not good looking or handsome like (Elvis) was,” he said. “With me, I had to move. We have an old saying up in the Delta if you can’t take the mountain to Muhammad, you take Muhammad to the mountain.”

Since then he has performed in 90 countries and all 50 states.

“Coming home is always special, even though you don’t see a lot of the friends any more,” King said. “But God’s been good to me and he’s got me here for a reason.”

King, who has more than 50 albums, was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1984. In 1987, he was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

Although King’s home is Mississippi, he doesn’t play in the state much. “People think that they play the blues in Mississippi wrong, wrong, wrong,” he said. “They don’t play the blues any more in Mississippi than they do in any other state.

“It makes me very sad,” he said. “Mississippi is known for being the origin for a kind of music that’s called blues, and it’s respected everywhere in the world where people are free to hear it.”

But 61 South, the new lounge at the casino, is blues-oriented. General Manager Curt Follmer said that’s why it was so important to have the world’s greatest blues musician snip the ribbon to cap an $8 million renovation of the casino complex.

Elsewhere in the city, Ameristar Casino has opened the Bottleneck Blues Bar that features live music acts, often from St. Louis, Memphis or New Orleans. A city committee is also working to create a stronger blues archives or museum in the city.

King said a lot of people have passed an appreciation of blues down to their children and grandchildren. “Young people go along with their parents to blues festivals,” he said. “Sometimes you see whole families come out for a festival. You’ll see not only the young parents, but their parents and their children. That’s a good feeling.”

He said that blues music has helped America make friends with other countries. “More people want to come see what we do and how we do it,” he said. “A lot are glad to see us come over.”

“It felt wonderful to listen to all the music,” said Marilyn Nash, a Delhi resident who attended the performance. “His music is something that’s a part of him and you can tell it.”