To make the Post A Day 2011 challenge a bit more bearable, I’ve set up a couple of regular features. Keeping the music theme I’ve been using, I’m undertaking the 30 Day Song Challenge as a weekly project.
Week 6 — A Song That Reminds You Of Somewhere
“The Thrill Is Gone,” B.B. King
As those who know me at all know, I worked for years at the newspaper in Indianola, Miss.
As those who know me at all know, Indianola is where B.B. King claims as his hometown.
Every year, B.B. King would come back to Indianola and give a fund-raiser concert. He and his band got nothing for it, the proceeds would benefit local parks.
As a result, it was the most self-indulgent concert you’ve ever seen. Since B.B. was doing it as a favor, he cared less about entertaining the audience than he did about entertaining himself.
He usually played a pretty short show, sometimes only five or so songs. The focus was a dance contest, in which he would pull kids from the audience up on stage. This made B.B. happy, but it was not unusual for audiences to leave en masse during this part.
I will say, though, that I liked it for one rather interesting reason. B.B. always wanted a diverse group of kids on stage, so he’d ask for what he needed to round it out — “I need another black boy.” One year I left during this part and walked home, you could hear him easily a mile away in the middle of the small-town Indianola night calling out what he needed.
I should point out at this point that Indianola, in addition to being the hometown of B.B. King, was also the birthplace of the White Citizens Counsel, sort of a white-collar (so to speak) version of the Ku Klux Klan. So it gave me great delight that the town had come far enough that an elderly black man could yell out clear across town, “Bring me another little white girl,” and people would pay to see it. There’s hope for us all yet.
But, I digress …
Like I said, most of the concert was pretty self-indulgent. It had its entertaining moments, but it was more about the event than the music.
When B.B. started playing “The Thrill Is Gone,” it got real. Real fast.
What I remember, what this song takes me back to — and not the studio version, only live versions — is not the way the song sounded. It’s how the song felt.
I remember standing in the park, hearing B.B. King pluck Lucille in the way only B.B. King does, and feeling the notes pass over and through me, resonating in my heart and bones, not an aural sensation but a physical one. And a powerful one at that.
I’ve had similar moments at other concerts, but having seen B.B. King at his homecoming concert probably seven times, none of those has the reinforcement of this one.
When I hear The Thrill Is Gone, I think of Fletcher Park, Main Street, Indianola, Mississippi.