The King and I


BB King in Japan

Blue Note Jazz Club, Fukuoka, Japan, ca. 1995.

B.B. King played a one-night gig at this small, intimate nightclub, with just 80-90 people in the audience, all of whom paid about ¥12,000 (roughly equivalent to about US$120 at the time) for a ticket. There were about 5 of us “gaijin” (foreigners), none of whom knew each other, but at the end of the concert we had gravitated towards each other and were happy to gather at the end of the long line to greet Mr. King.

He couldn’t have been more gracious, a real Southern gentleman. Maybe he was also a little happy and relieved to chat in his native English — most of the club’s patrons spoke only Japanese. He sat with us for a bit, signed autographs, and gave each of us a few guitar picks (the shiny, gold-colored buttons you see in the picture).

I’ve since lost the guitar picks, but the framed photo remains a prized possession on my bookcase.

RIP, Mr. King. You are dearly missed.