B.B. King passed away May 15, 2015 and although his many admirers will missed him, his passing will be particularly felt by me and my daughter. Looking back to 1995, when this story takes place, she was so glad that I had gifted her, and her husband, two tickets to finally see him October 12, 2013 at Kitchener’s Centre in the Square – less than two years before his death. I just couldn’t live with her never having seen her hero. And, it shows me that his legacy remains: that love never dies… despite how inevitable death is.
For decades, acknowledged as one of the greatest electric guitarist ever, is the renowned American blues guitarist and singer-songwriter B.B. King – winner of everything the music industry and governments can give an artist – including 15 Grammy Awards, the ‘President American Medal of Freedom’ … and my 15-year-old daughter’s enduring adulation.
Now, he was performing here, at the iconic Lulu’s nightclub!
“Do you think he would?” The incredulous look on my daughter’s face filled with expectations mixed with apprehension. With an optimism conditioned by experience, I said,“Well there’s only one way to find out”.
We quickly turn off the highway at New Hamburg to buy a permanent marking pen for Mr. King to sign. At home, we get her guitar and as a last-minute bit of inspiration, I suggest that she write a personal note to him – which she does – in a sealed envelope.
I explain all this to the club’s owner who seems so-so about it, but he calls in his manager who, after hearing the story, just rolls her eyes.“There’s no way!” Her voice trailed off, but I knew she was probably right. It just seemed too commercially crass, even if I knew our intentions were honourable. And because of that, I pressed on explaining who was asking – a girl with a dream. “Well, all we can do is to try.” I offer – to which the club owner nodded to the manager, who patiently secures the guitar and leaves.
Later that night, as the B.B. King orchestra starts playing, it happened! Coming from somewhere is a soul-bending sighing guitar sound, like I’ve never heard before, as Mr. King, walking out to centre stage, gives his first reverent bow to his stellar musicians – the audience never being released from his magical spell all night long.
The next day, the manager explained, when she tentatively presented it to him backstage after the show, he just raised his eyebrows and looked dubiously at her and Brooke’s guitar. Reading his mind, she suggested that it was from a young fan and that maybe he could read her letter. He did. Then, without saying anything, he reflectively signed: To Brooke, Best Wishes, B.B. King 3-31-95
Later, asking my daughter what she had written, she could only recall that, as well as telling him how much she admired his music, her only other wish was, “… to be old enough to attend one of his concerts when he returns.”
Slipping the letter into his shirt pocket, he patted it down as if he had found something of immeasurable value, as only a father would know: the music just playing background to the real magic between B.B. & B. – two special people who always will hit the right note with me.