Thursday, January 17, 2008

The return of the King

Legend B.B. King is playing the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie on March 7 at 8 p.m.

Tickets, via Ticketmaster, range from $42.50 to $47.50.

Readers may remember that in 1998, when B. B. King was scheduled to perform at the Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston, the bluesman refused to get off his tour bus.

"Lucille," King's guitar, was on a different bus and was yet to arrive. The mayor of the city, the late T.R. Gallo, sent city police officers to find the bus, whose driver was going around town trying to find UPAC.

(Which begs the question, how do you get lost trying to find UPAC?)

Gallo set up a police escort to find the guitar and bring it to the Broadway venue (and nowadays people complain about overtime!)

''Well, the police come tearing up Broadway with this bus that had nothing on it but a guitar and the crowd roars and then B.B. runs on stage, holding the guitar above his head and says, 'I want to thank the mayor of Kingston for saving my Lucille,' '' said a laughing Ron Marquette, UPAC's then executive director, in an interview with the New York Times.

Kingston Mayor James Sottile should make note of that. If he were to go to Poughkeepsie and Lucille gets lost again, the mayor could go outside and save the day himself.

After all, he's got boots.


The Hudson Valley's Murali Coryell is opening for King.
Coryell - whom you can spot at different area venues periodically - has toured with King before.

Since you won't find the Freeman's story online (our Web archives go back to 1999) I'm posting the Freeman's own story from October 20, 1998:

Gallo helps B.B. King find lost love


Freeman staff

KINGSTON - As master bluesman B.B. King hunkered down in his tour bus, it was clear that the 73-year-old guitarist wasn't moving until Lucille - the cherished love of his life - was found.

“He wasn't coming out without her," said Ron Marquette, artistic director for the Ulster Performing Arts Center.

To King, Lucille is everything.

On Sunday night, she'd taken a wrong turn on a bus, led astray, nearly alone, somewhere in Kingston, people guessed.

About 1,500 people were waiting for King to perform his classic blues-style play at the Broadway theater, but Lucille - King's signature model semi- hollow Gibson guitar - was lost. The concert would not begin until Lucille, packed on a second bus, was put squarely into his hands.

"The place was packed and I had to tell them something," Marquette said Monday. "I just got on the microphone and I said we have a bit of a problem. Lucille is lost on a bus."

Enter Mayor T.R Gallo and the Kingston Police Department.

"I talked with (Marquette) and he told me Lucille was on the bus and it was lost," Gallo said.

Undaunted, Gallo lumbered onto King's bus and told the bluesman not be blue. King's performance was to start at 8:10 p.m.

"I assured him that we would do everything we could do," Gallo said.

Gallo's call went out to police with a, well, obvious clue. The missing bus had "B.B. King written all over it," the mayor said.

Sgt. James Brophy took the call. He dispatched a couple patrol cars, out to the Thruway circle and Uptown.

Meanwhile, concert-goers ventured outside the arts center, to take in warm air. Others waited for King to emerge from the tour bus, Marquette said.

"There was quite a gathering on the street," Marquette said. "There was a kind of community friendliness."

Marquette knew, though, that geniality might turn to hostility if Lucille weren't found soon. Concert-goers paid between $30 and $50 a ticket.

But about 15 minutes after Gallo made his call to police, Officer Patrick Scanlon found it on Washington Avenue, near Greenkill Avenue.

Two flashing-light patrol cars - one in front, one in back – escorted Lucille's bus to her destination.

Marquette said the guitar was delivered to King, a rousing cheer rose up from onlookers, and he started his show 40 minutes late.

"He walked on stage and comes out holding Lucille over his head and there was just a major standing ovation," Marquette said.

At the concert's end, Gallo was brought on stage by King and thanked for his effort in finding the guitar, an instrument with a body of laminated maple and an ebony fingerboard.

Gallo rallied the crowd: "Does Kingston love B.B. King?" The audience roared.

Sidney Seidenberg, King's manager, said the guitarist's ardor for the Gibson is, to say the least, intense. The guitar was named after a woman two men fought over in an Arkansas club that caught fire in the mid-1950s while he performed. King rescued his Gibson from the inferno and ever since each Gibson he plays is named Lucille.

Seidenberg said King had returned to the United States Saturday night from England, after playing alongside another blues perfectionist, Eric Clapton, during a concert in that country.

"B.B. says Lucille is his only love," Seidenberg said. "It is because it is the only girl that he knows that doesn't talk back to him.

When he puts her to sleep, she goes to sleep."