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Farewell: Bill Frisell Remembers B.B. King

Single-note stunner

Bill Frisell
B.B. King

Like everyone who ever heard him play, guitar great Bill Frisell was impacted irrevocably by B.B. King, who died last week. Here is his tribute.

I was so sad to hear this news. I never met him, but it seems like B.B. King was there all along. He has been, and always will be, one of those giants inspiring in me the belief that it might be possible to spend a life in music, and that playing the guitar is a worthy endeavor. It’s hard to imagine him gone.

The first time I saw him live was in the mid-’70s at Paul’s Mall, a small club in Boston. I was in the first row, inches from the stage. The band came out without him first. They sounded incredible. How could it get any better than this? Then he walked on, and with his first note-one note-stunned. He brought the level up about a thousand notches. One note. I’ve never heard that kind of power. The beautiful kind.

James Cotton happened to be in town that night and showed up. He joined in and they had a ball. So did everyone else. What a night. I’ll never forget it.

As soon as my daughter learned how to walk she found a cassette with B.B. King and Bobby Bland and played it over and over and over until the machine wore out. He touched everyone. How could I ever thank him? We are blessed.

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