Wednesday, May 5, 2010
(Picture by "wonderham." Thanks! See link below.)
It just occurred to me that the first two blues acts I ever saw, (and the first two concerts that really affected me and changed my life), were by young men, or young middle aged men, who are still playing today, and who can still outplay the younguns.
B.B. and Chuck.
I once wrote about all their similarities. (I'll repost it nearby.) But what a privilege for me, and what a coincidence that the two continue to thrive.
I'm sure I saw B. B. King first. It was at Cal-Expo, the California State Fair, then new. There was a momentary dream to make it a year-round rival to Disneyland, with monorail, and futuristic edifices. Chuck Berry described his own dream for Berry Park in "Hail! Hail!" He said something like, "I wanted it to be like Six Flags. Ah-- turned out to be one flag." That's how it was for Cal-Expo, too. It turned out to be just a new location for the same old State Fair, with a counties exhibit, and a midway, and fireworks at the end of the night. But for one summer, it was magic-- six flags, and B.B., too.
I don't know how I got there. I had to be about 13 or 14. But I remember standing in the crowd, mesmerized. I was an idiot child from the Sacramento suburbs, and some part of me thought there might be something threatening or uncomfortable about a B. B. King blues show, (he probably felt the same about a crowd of Sacramento suburban teenagers,) but what I found was the magic of B. B. King. (I'm sad to say that what I remember best from that night was the schtick-- where B. B. let his wrist go limp imitating a woman. But I heard the music, too.) Since then I've seen him at least four more times in venues ranging from bars to an arena and an opera house, and I've never been remotely disappointed.
And then came Chuck Berry, in a performance at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium that I've written about elsewhere. Most of the show was his rock and roll hits, but when we walked into the near empty room he was playing the blues for sure, alone at the mike with a red guitar, blue jeans, and an orange shirt. We bought our tickets at the door and sat six or sever rows from center stage. I'll never forget it.
The other day, in Sacramento for family business, I parked and walked around that beautiful old brick building, trying to peek in and remember. Like so many spots around the country, it's a place full of history and memory, magic and loss. I couldn't see much, but I felt a lot.
I wondered how Chuck Berry got into the building that night, or on the nights he played there with Louis Jordan or the big rock and roll shows. I wondered where Stevo sat with Bo Diddley, or where Danny found the crowd chanting Stevo's name.
I remembered seeing Albert King and Freddie King in the same building, warm up acts for lesser acts that I've forgotten.
And tonight? Just amazed that those first two geniuses that I got to see alive on stage endure, still play, and still outplay the younguns.
83 years old!
(I borrowed the picture from chuckberry.com. Thank you wonderham. Here's the post. http://www.chuckberry.com/messageboard/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=2744&p=5975&hilit=wonderham#p5975