Welcome to my Blues Heritage Tour. I’m on a road trip in a beautiful red 1966 Ford Mustang working my north from New Orleans up Highway 61 – the blues highway – to Chicago.
Today I’m Memphis, Tennessee, to get a taste of the electric Memphis blues.
Further north now, the blues sound is more polished, more electric, more of a polished performance.
I’ve left the juke joints and low-down bars back in Baton Rouge and Clarksdale. Here in Memphis, it’s sharp suits, backing bands full of brass, elegant theatres and putting on a show.
And the king of putting on a show – a man many call ‘King of the Blues’ – is B. B. King.
Born Riley B. King, in Itta Bena, Mississippi, he moved to Memphis in the 40s and has been recording, playing and touring ever since. At age 76, he’s still going strong and defining the blues for new audiences.
King is a pioneer of electric blues guitar. He was soloing way before his blues contempories caught up with him and he continues to be a model for aspiring blues guitarists today.
If you want to learn about the blues – and the heritage of African American music – a good place to start is the Memphis Rock n Soul Museum. Let’s go in.
A new regular feature starts next week for The Big Paws as our blues and soul expert travels up Highway 61 in a big fat red car — searching for the roots of blues.
You can hear the first episode right now (the full tracks from the blues legends are only available on The Big Paws, they’re restricted to clips on the podcast):