B.B. Lent a Helping Hand to Bobby Blue

B.B. King & Bobby Blue Bland - The Thrill Is Gone (1977)

In the mid-70s word came down that B.B. (Blues Boy) King was releasing a new single of "The Thrill Is Gone." It seemed kind of strange. It hadn’t been that long since his original record of the song had been released and a worldwide hit... So why again?

Well, it had to do with B.B.’s beautiful soul, not only in music, but also in his life.

It turned out that his old friend and former valet, Bobby "Blue" Bland, another famous blues singer, had fallen on hard times: his career was in a skid and his private life not all that great either. B.B. knew that if just offered Bobby money, the Blues Bland wouldn’t accept it out of pride and consider it charity.

The two stars, had often shared the stage and sung together, and on at least one occasion had performed "The Thrill Is Gone" to great applause. Their two voices blended beautifully, and B.B.'s guitar, "Lucille," really sang her own song.

B.B. King and Bobby Blue Bland - Live on Soul Train (1975)

So B.B. calls Bobby and asks him to go into the studio together ("Together for the First Time") and they’d split any income from the record. They did exactly that and I heard about it before I heard the record…it was sensational, two Masters working together.

The record exploded and topped several charts, when they toured together it brought down the house, and Bobby’s share of the revenue from record sales helped pull him out of a deep hole. But it did more than that, it gave an incredible boost to his career and he started playing big gigs again. He’d tell anyone that would listen that B.B. King was a "prince among men."

I wanted to tell that story because when B.B. died at 89 in May of 2015 most of the obits were about his incredible career, but not enough was written about his generosity and quiet care of others in need. Bobby Bland preceded his friend, former boss and mentor in death, passing in June of 2013. – TDR

Editor's Note: For more backstage stories, see "Don Goes Backsage with Blues Legend B.B. King."

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