I wonder what B.B. King would think about the situation we’re in right now? In 2008 he said to me, “I used to hear when I was a boy that people shouldn’t cry and sob so when they lose someone. They should do that with the incoming. When a baby’s born, they should cry. Sob for that baby because the person that just died don’t have to go through life again as a lot of us have had to go through.”
B.B. was an orphan at age 10 living on a plantation in Indianola, Mississippi. “You probably won’t believe what I’m about to tell you, but I never thought of it as a situation. I was just alone and lonely, and when a person has one child, you are alone when you lose that parent if you only have one. I was lonely and lonesome, yes. But there was a little we called it a little thicket, a lot of trees, not big trees. Small trees where a lot of animals like squirrels, rabbits and stuff like that, birds, a lot of birds, and after my mom died, I used to go down and sit down.
“There’s a little spring down there, a spring that’s still running today. I was down there a few years ago, and I used to sit down and drink the water. I would be sitting on it sometimes, and I would have peanuts and food like that, corn and stuff, and animals I guess trusted me for some reason. They would come up and almost eat out of my hand. And they were my friends. I’ve had a lot of fans and a lot of acquaintances through the years, but I haven’t had a lot of friends. I don’t think it’s because I haven’t been friendly, but it’s just something about me. I don’t know what it is, but that is true. Even squirrels and rabbits and something like that.”
B.B. had just released an album called One Kind Favor, the title taken from a line in the Blind Lemon Jefferson song “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean.” In 2015 B. B. was buried at his museum in Indianola.
“I was down to my hometown all last week,” he told me in 2008, “and I found the gravesite that I’d like to be buried in, and I hope they’ll remember that. Keep my grave clean. I’d love for people that love me or think well of me to be able to come to Indianola, Mississippi and see it. A long time ago I thought about being cremated. Then, I thought about that some more and said, ‘Oh, no. If there’s any such thing about coming back again, I want all my parts with me.’
(chuckle) Yeah, I ain’t gonna take that chance. So, bury me. Put it all together. (Laugh) I don’t wanna be missing some of the vital parts. We have a word in this business about pushing up daisies. Well, I wouldn’t mind having that job at all because I think daisies are beautiful flowers, and the pretty daisies I’ve seen while living I’d like to be able to push them up, too. So, I think, though, that I went to this grave site right in my hometown, and I have some relatives buried out there. So, I think I’d like to be there.
Then, they got the museum that’s gonna open in September, and people will be coming to see it. So, those that love me and care about me I would like for them to come out and people keep my grave kept clean, so people can see my name and see where I’m laid out. I’d like to be available. I’d like to be able to go out to where I’ve heard where Blind Lemon is buried and I’ve heard where Robert Johnson is buried, but I’ve never seen ’em. So, I’d like to be available to the people that have kept me all these years. I’d just love to be available for them.
My old friend Robert Lockwood Jr. I don’t know where he’s buried either. So, there’s so many I don’t know. So, I feel a lot of people don’t either. So, I’d like to be somewhere where people that love me could see me and the ones that are inquisitive could find me. That’s what I’d like, and song that Blind Lemon sang, ‘Please See that My Grave Be Kept Clean,’ I believe that kind of hits me pretty good.
Yes, I’ve felt blessed, sir. I have heard it said by Native Americans that the great spirit some people call God and Allah, whatever it’s called, but whomever and whatever that great spirit that have kept me alive, I’m grateful. And my prayers I guess ain’t too good, but don’t only say ’em when I’m in trouble and need something, but I stops now and then and say thank you. Now and then, I say thank you.
I’m gonna tell you something I told my son a few days ago, that’s not a very sad subject to me. I’m 82 now, and I think people have been so good. My bad days I had in the early days. I practically throw ’em in the back of my mind and don’t think about ’em. I only think of the good things and the way things have been.
I believe all people are good. Some just do bad things, but I think God has been good to me, whatever people call it, and you know, I’m I won’t say ready because I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to die. Too crazy about looking at these pretty women, but oh, yeah, I’m old, boy. I made a slip the other night on stage, but I was tellin’ the truth. I said, ‘I think all women are beautiful,’ and I do, and I love all of them, and I do, and I said, ‘but I don’t want to sleep with all of them,’ which is the truth, but I slipped and said, ‘but I’d like to sleep with as many as I can.’ (Laugh) I said that the other night. People laughed. So, I hope they don’t hold it against me, but it’s true. Thank God for Dr. Viagra and Cialis.”
Later in our interview he summed up by saying, “Today I’m not alone. I have a lot of children. I have a lot of acquaintances and friends. People seem to care for me. It’s a good feeling.”
I often wonder if B. B. was just being humble, or did he really not realize how many millions of friends and admirers he had. I count myself as one!
*Feature image Timothy W Willis