B.B. King is best known for his blues riffs, but he had a way with words too.
Here’s a sampling from interviews and his 1996 autobiography, “Blues All Around Me” (Avon Books).
“Being a blues player and being black was like being black twice.”
“When you’re running track, they pass you -- I don’t know what you call it -- the baton. I just picked up the baton and kept running with it. But guys like Robert Johnson, Jimmy Rogers, Memphis Slim, Roosevelt Sykes, and I could name you many, many more, they are the ones that were the base.”
“Blues has always been treated like the stepchild -- the bottom of the totem pole.”
On his early recordings: “I hear a lot of people saying now, ‘Those things you used to do, they’re something else.’ But they didn’t like ‘em when I was doing ‘em! That has me bothered a bit. ... But that’s the way it was. However it may have been or it may be today, I’m so pleased that I’m still living and able to hear the people say, ‘That was good. We liked it.’”
“My career has been blues versus any other kind of music. Anytime someone sings the blues, it makes me happy. It hasn’t always been easy.”
“I lacked the flash of other black entertainers like Little Richard, Chuck Berry or Bo Diddley. I didn’t have Sam’s [Cooke] good looks or Jackie’s [Wilson] dance moves, but I was going to give ‘em a taste of the in-your-face blues and give it to ‘em good.”
On his museum in the Mississippi Delta: “Now that I’m part of the over-the-hill gang, I don’t think so much about myself. But what about these young guys? Keb’ Mo’, Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Robert Cray, what about them? ... I’m hoping people will go to this museum and see where this is important to a lot of people.”
“I’m always excited to hear that men and women in important positions want to meet me. And I always worry a little that I’ll disappoint them. But the truth is that they hear and see the same B.B. as the average fan looking for an autograph.”