Friday, May 15, 2015

BB King: The Thrill is Really Gone

Friday, May 15th, 2015

My Dear America

Today, as the young but deadly surviving Boston Marathon Bomber learned that he received the Death Penalty, I find it hard to feel sorry for this young man who killed and maimed so many innocent people. 

What is on my mind today is another death, one that happened yesterday.  The death of Blues Legend BB King.  BB King was one of the most influential musicians of all time and his presence on this earth will truly be missed by many people and I am proud to say that I will be one of them. 

Riley King played the Blues for most of his long life.  He was 89 when he died yesterday.  He not only played with the best of them throughout his life.  He was always one of the best of them himself throughout his long life.  His music played on his beloved "Lucille" guitar will certainly live on as long as there is recorded music but for me the fact is that I know he was not only a Great Bluesman.  He was simply a Great man, Period.  I have a poster down in my basement which reminds me every time I look at it just what an incredible person BB King was.

I got the poster downstairs from Ed.  Ed was my friend and colleague at The Children's Home where we both worked.  Ed was one of the bravest and self controlled people who I ever worked with.  He was a big guy and his size served him well.  When a kid whose behavior was out of control Ed came to take control of the situation.  Most kids were smart enough to know that tangling with Ed was senseless.  Also Ed knew how to be soft spoken and talk a kid down avoiding violent confrontations.  On those few occasions when Ed had to use his strength he used only the amount of strength needed to restrain a youngster properly and never lost his temper with a kid.  Ed wasn't married and he put a great deal of his own money and time in with kids who needed what he had to give them, which was positive attention and real caring and concern.  Ed worked his way up from House Parent to Caseworker and then for some reason he lost his Caseworker position and returned to the Intensive Unit where he had worked effectively for so long.  Long Story short, Ed was a decent and dedicated worker at the Children's Home where we worked.  Ed didn't talk a lot to me but when we did talk we mostly talked about music.  Both Ed and I were blues music lovers.  We had that in common.  Whenever we talked about blues music Ed would bring up BB King.  Ed loved BB's music and talked about it all the time.  

I don't recall what year it was that BB came to town and played a concert at the State Theater in Easton, PA.  The concert was partially a fundraiser for a local charity and the Executive Director of that local charity receiving the funds was a friend of Ed's and invited Ed backstage to meet BB after the concert.  Ed's friend introduced Ed to BB backstage and from what Ed told me later when BB found out that Ed worked with youngsters he sat down alone with Ed for two hours asking Ed all about the Children's Home and getting to know Ed.  Ed was thrilled by the experience and got BB to sign the concert poster he had bought and hung it in his Caseworker office until he left that office and in a most gracious move Ed gave me the poster to put on my office wall.  Although I moved offices a couple of times before I left the Children's Home for good, the BB King poster always moved with me.  After Ed passed away and I was leaving the Children's Home for good I took the poster with me and hung it on my wall downstairs where it has remained and will continue to remain.

BB King played in my home area several times over the years and my wife and I always talked about going to see him but it was only a few months ago that we actually traveled to Penn's Peak in the Poconos to see BB in concert.  My wife and I were somewhat disappointed with the concert.  For nearly a half hour his band played without BB.  Then BB came out onstage with two gentlemen holding him up and helped him sit down on a chair.  BB played for a little over a half hour and then he was helped offstage by the two gentlemen and the concert was over.  During the time he played he clearly wasn't playing at the skill levels that he played in the old days.  Now at this sad time we realize, however, that BB even at his worst was one of the best and we appreciate so much the fact that he loved his fans so much that even when he must have been in agony he was out there on the stage giving what he had to give to his fans.

God Bless you, BB.  I know you'll be jamming in heaven tonight with your Blues Buddies who have gone on before you, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Howlin Wolf and many more. 

You will be missed but I will forever be grateful for what you meant to Ed and I and my wife.  We love you and wish the best for your family left behind.  There will never be another BB King.  But there will always be BB King.  He will live for as long as Blues Music will continue and we will all be better for his being here for as long as we had him.

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher

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