On July 5th, 1969 BB King played Toronto's Rock Pile. I'll always remember that concert. Here's why...
I was all of 15 years old. My high school friend Nick Liapis was working the grill at Harveys on Yonge Street near Bloor. One afternoon before the concert a band came in for some burgers and Nick, a musician in his own right, struck up a conversation with his local back-up band (was it Whisky Howl? Not sure).
Nick called me up and asked if I wanted to go see BB KIng, who was on a bit of a revival tour in the midst of the resurgence of original Blues music through groups like The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac...I was in.
The first of 2 performances that night was brilliant. It was the first time that I knew that his guitar was named Lucille, and we found out how that came to be. I remember the raw bitterness of "The Thrill is Gone"and the tenderness of "Hummingbird".
With the show done Nick asked if I wanted to go up to the dressing room as he had a card game going with the band.
I never played cards, but figured I could just hang out. Going in the room I recall Mr. King sitting , beside his guitar, jacket folded over the bench, taking a drink from a silver flask. "Have a seat!" And so I got to have a wonderful conversation with King. At the end, as he was getting ready for the second set he said. "Nice talking to you. Come by again next time I'm in town".
And so, I got to follow the trajectory of BB King's career through to his passing in 2015. I have to say, when I pick up my guitar, to this day,my hand gravitates to that little piece of the fretboard so brilliantly mapped out by the bluesman. Four lower strings above the 7th fret.