BB King and Bobby Blue Bland
I thought I was just going to hear some blues from the legendary BB King; but it turned out I was going to get a lesson in history along the way.
I have been to the Fox Theater only once before and when I walked in the place was already dark. It was not until I walked into the lobby I realized that I missed out on the atmosphere of the monolith theater.
The Fox Theater in Detroit is historic, artistic and a monument in time to many entertainers that graced its stage. Opening night was on September 21, 1928…the show: “The Evolution of Transportation”, a production based on the chronicles of Detroit from Native Americans on to present day . “The Temple of Amusement” as some called it, really is just that. Every corner of the building is decorated in ornate carvings, stucco, marble and sculpture that in any other environment would be tacky and overdone.
Themes running from Indian to Asian are mixed in almost seamlessly within the walls; a feeling of wonder crosses my mind as the cultures swirled together on the walls mix with the different cultured people wondering the halls. The lobby while huge, becomes a sea of people. Some dressed to the nines, while others are casual. The patterns of dark marble mix with the fur of a woman’s coat. The sandstone and limestone color on the stairs make a mans head disappear as his wool hat becomes artistic camouflage as he walks up to the private party on the balcony. Feet disappear from view as we climb the winding staircase to the upper balcony, but the sound of shoes on black granite reminds us they are still there with every click and clack sounding like the cogs and chain of a rollercoaster being pulled to the top of the first hill.
As we sat in our seats I was reminded of the difference in the definition of personal space across the twentieth century…seats were quite cozy with seats next to you. As the awkwardness of sitting on the lap of a stranger reminded me still of riding in a rollercoaster in the odd seat -you know when everyone has a partner but you, or there is an odd number in the group in front of you so you have to ride with your life strapped to a chair with a stranger? You almost have to strike up a conversation just to ease the moment before the car tumbles down the hill and you scream in excitement.
Before I know it, the lights dimmed and the curtains came up…our decent into the night had begun! As the band began to play I was curious who “Bobby Blue Band” (note: “Band” here is not a typo) was; maybe a local Motown group? After a few minutes of playing a bit of a jam session the lead trumpet player announced that the legendary “Bobby Blue” was about to grace the stage. Feeling a little ignorant, I thought “I didn’t know ‘BB’ stood for ‘Bobby Blue’ in ‘BB King'” still confused and thinking that “Bobby Bleu Band” must be the backup back for BB King…I saw a man being helped out onto the stage. Recalling that BB King is now 79 I thought this makes sense to me, but where is Lucille? Within a few moments I was sucked into the music and daydreaming about life, dancing, playing an instrument myself. I felt something odd about the moment as I knew this was not BB King playing, but I knew that this man also deserved some respect in the same quantity.
Bobby Bleu Bland [correct]; born in 1930 and was inducted into the Blues Foundations Hall of Fame in 1981 and the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. Also in 1992 he was presented with the Rhythm and Blues Foundation’s Pioneer Award. He has played with BB King since the 40’s and 50’s…his voice and his entertainment power were amazing and touching. The difference between today’s musicians and entertainers of the past is just that: entertainers! Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, BB King, Bobby Blue Bland and many others…they know how to entertain on top of perform.
A few minutes of intermission and the King of Blues came out. The story of BB King and Lucille can be found online at various places. The experience of hearing BB King and Lucille live is one I will not forget. At times they were one in the same…the voice the music…the rhythm and the blues. While in the majestic Fox Theater I wondered what similarities the Apollo has with the inside of the Fox. I wondered was it was like to be someone that could say they were at this or that venue to see some performer for their fist major show. As the music thundered I wondered how many people have seen this man play over the years…how many sets of ears he made ring with the strings of his guitar and the charm of his voice.
When the show was over we filled out in somber awe of the music we heard…coming down the stairs as if the final decent of the ride was here and we were coming to the exit. I watched a little girl skip down the stairs with a smile on her face and a giggle with every hop. My friend asked he if she liked the show and with a big grin she looked up and said “YES!!” …she couldn’t have been older then four.
Seeing a legend play live is one thing; seeing two is another. Saturday night was a great ride through time and the soundtrack for the ride was pretty good too.