Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The King has left the building......

I know this blog is mostly based on my spiritual findings as a recovering addict and alcoholic,
but other times it's just a place for me to write what I am feeling or share a story.

I would be remiss to not share with you the deep fondness and appreciation I have
for the now late B.B. King.

My father worked at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis, Mo.
He was 48 years older than me and needless to say, the generational gap was wide and long.
We did not have much in common with the years between us, but we both loved music.
He listened to Big Band and Swing music.......Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Count Basie....
He loved Harry James, Gene Krupa, and countless other musicians from days long gone
in the mid 1970's.  Like any child, when you're very young, you listen to whatever your
parents listen to, you don't really have any taste yet and whatever is around you is what you soak up.
I loved my fathers music, still do today.  Then I got a little older and started to hear rock n roll
from the neighbor up the street and got really excited about guitar.
I distinctly remember making my father take me to Sears on Grand Ave in South St. Louis to
buy Kiss Alive 2 in about 1977.  We stood in line and he looked at the record in disbelief.....
he turned it over and saw the blood covered Gene Simmons and said out loud

"Jesus Christ.....What the hell kind of music is this shit? This guys all covered in damn blood.
You like this? These guys play music???"

It was the beginning of the end.  We were so far apart in age and when I got old enough to
start making my own choices, we grew apart. I was no longer a little boy and it wasn't the 1940's.
I fell in love with rock n roll and pop music and started listening to the radio religiously and never
turned back.  My father hated my music, he had no time for it and was not interested at all in listening
with me.....and God knows I tried.  No one played an instrument in my family, so me getting a guitar
was also not the most desired sound to have around. My parents put up with it all, mostly because I was the youngest and they were old and beaten down.

Eventually I got turned on in high school to Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
I was just really into guitar and guitar music at that time, but also Prince, Michael Jackson,
and Cyndi Lauper. I did love good pop music.

I got a job at the music store in my neighborhood and got seriously turned onto B.B. King.
They played "Live at the Regal" damn near everyday at that store.
I fell in love, immediately.  The sound of his guitar and his voice and that band, just swinging.
It was the first time ever that I made a connection of my love of the guitar and my fathers music.
Thats what BB sounded like to me, like blues guitar in a Big Band.
I bought that record and played it for my father. He loved it too.
He knew BB had played with Sinatra in Vegas for years at Caesar's Palace in the late 60's.
He said to me..."Now thats music. Thats good. I can hear every note that he's playing and he's playing
pretty. Not a bunch of noise...and he can sing too. Thats good Michael, thats what music sounds like."

I was proud. I found something that we both liked and we listened to it a lot together.
We talked about BB and music and while he was always first to tell me that the "crap" I had been
listening to was no good, he would always say to me that this music here is what I should try and learn.  He also said the same thing about Country Music. He loved Glen Cambell.....because he played guitar for Sinatra :)

BB King became my mentor and I tried my best to learn from him, but I was still very young.
Finally, in about 1999 I think, BB King came to the Fox Theater in St. Louis.
It was his tour with opening acts, Tower of Power, Robert Cray and Indigenous.
My girlfriend at the time, knew how much I adored BB and she surprised me with front row tickets.
I will never forget that concert. I had never sat that close to the stage before and was in complete AWE of his performance. He was on fire and really doing his thing. The band was amazing and he was strong and solid and his guitar amp was hitting me right in the face, I LOVED IT!
At the end of the show he walked to the front of the stage and he shook everyone's hand and gave out guitar picks. He looked at me and said "here you go son"......I was speechless.
I looked at my girlfriend as we walked out and said "I don't care if we get a dog or have a kid someday, we are naming the first thing we get to name after that man right there!!!"
Well......not much longer after that we got pregnant and today she's almost 15 years old, Riley Zito.

Riley has a fabulous, huge photo of BB King taken by the great Jerry Moran at Jazzfest about 5 years ago, hanging on her wall in her bedroom. He's looking right at the camera smiling, playing his guitar.

My father passed away some years ago, but he got to see me get clean and sober and find success
for myself in the music world.  He became my biggest fan and was very proud.

It's weird to look back now and put the pieces together. The puzzle makes sense now.
BB King was such a huge inspiration in my life and brought my father and I together again,
even though we were so far apart in years.
I never played music with him, shared the stage or opened his show, and we never met....
he just shook my hand at his concert, and I think thats the best.

I am a fan of music and I believe in the magic, sometimes it just needs to stay there, in the magic.
Today, we know everything about everyone, and it's just not the same.
I did read his autobiography twice and loved it!

What a life.  B.B. King lived the life he loved. He played the music he wanted to play
and he gave the world so much love and hope.
It was not always easy, but it's not supposed to be.

Thank You Riley B. King.
You will continue to inspire me until he day we meet.