It was the late 1970's, and I was working for a local Pittsburgh newspaper as an editor and reporter. Blues legend B.B. King was performing at the Stanley Theatre, a smaller, secondary venue from the city's Civic Arena. The Stanley is now gone; transformed into the Benedum Center, and housing a plethora of performing arts and artists.
I contacted the Stanley management team and arranged for an interview with Mr. King after the show. I already purchased tickets. I found I gained greater access to performers when they didn't think I was attempting to score free admissions to concerts. Admittedly, when Mr. King's people checked, they found I already held respectable recognition for my journalistic endeavors.
I presented my credentials to the security backstage after the concert and explained I had an interview for the newspaper with Mr. King. I was asked to wait a few moments to allow Mr. King to relax and chill a bit after the show. I waited 15 minutes, and then was ushered into Mr. King's dressing room.
Originally, I was asked to keep the interview brief; around 15 -20 minutes. Once we started talking, the time passed quickly. I researched my subject well, even though I was a guitar player and a fan of the blues. My inquiries brought back many memories which elicited laughs and nostalgic stories from Mr. King. When his personal assistant entered the room to indicate the time for the interview was over, Mr. King signaled to him it was okay to continue and that he was enjoying the talk.
When I concluded the interview, I thanked Mr. King for his time. He rose and stated my questions indicated a musical background. He asked if I played.
"Yes, sir," I responded. "I play guitar."
"Did you take lessons?" he asked.
"Yes sir, I took lessons for eight years from Slim Bryant."
Mr. King's eyes lit up.
"Slim!" he exclaimed. "I know Slim. He's a good man!"
Mr. King pointed to an adjacent, smaller room.
"Want to see Lucille?"
In the room, on a guitar stand, was the legendary Lucille, Mr. King's specially designed Gibson guitar. I walked into the room, and then walked around the instrument. Somehow, it seemed magical.
"Want to play her?" Mr. King asked. He laughed when he saw my face. To say I was incredulous was epic understatement. He pulled up a few chairs, handed me Lucille, grabbed another guitar and for the next half hour or so, to quote Eric Clapton "I was playing with the King."
It was a magical moment for me; one intensely renewed with B.B. King's recent passing. Slim Bryant was a hardcore country-western guitar player. I never thought he would have a connection with the King of the Blues and that connection would grant me playing time with B.B. King. The incident also demonstrates how Mr. King always had time for fellow players, even if they weren't up to his caliber. For him, the music reigned supreme.