I woke up on the bus this morning and my wife, Susan [Tedeschi], was playing B.B. King records up front. I looked up and we were passing the Indianola, Mississippi exit, driving to Jackson, and it was kind of too much to take. I had to put sunglasses on and just sit there and take it in. It definitely hit home harder than expected. We got into our hotel and the lady behind the desk, said, “He stayed here twice a year.” I feel like I’m kind of walking the trail today.
When B.B. King played, it was just the cold hard truth [laughs] – like hearing Martin Luther King speak. You just needed one word, one note with B.B. No one has that. No one lived the life he lived. None of the quote-unquote “torchbearers” have that history, that spirit. There’s a bunch of people out here that are going to carry on the memory of it, but he did it. My good friend Col. Bruce Hampton said, “B.B. ain’t coming back. He got it right this time.” A lot of people might have to keep coming back to work it out, but B.B. did it. He ain’t coming back. He did what he was supposed to do. He left an amazing legacy and a bunch of disciples.
It felt like as long as he was here, everything was OK. There’s no John Coltrane, Ray Charles is gone, but B.B.’s still here. Everyone knew he was sick and the last few times we saw him, we knew he was getting to the end of the road. But it kind of feels like you lost your other father. He was all of our dads. Every guitar player I know, going back to Eric [Clapton] or Dickey [Betts] or any of the guys I looked up to, it’s the same reverence from them to B.B. We’re all his kids.
He was always a sweetheart. He always treated you like a long lost friend. It was pure grace with him. There was really nobody like him. I had the chance to get onstage with him at the Royal Albert Hall in London and later in L.A. That connection – playing straight B.B. King licks and having him answer them back – those are special, peak moments. I felt his vote of confidence. When you play something and see B.B. grin, it’s just like “this is the right path.” That’s something I’m grateful for.
He was unbelievably gracious to my family. I remember my son Charlie was probably six or eight months old and we were on B.B.’s bus and Charlie grabbed a lapel and B.B. takes it off and gives it to him. And then he pulls out a hundred dollar bill, a crisp one, and gives it to Charlie. We framed that thing up. He just had that spirit. He was here to give, and he gave a lot. I know towards the end, people were complaining about some of the shows and my thought was always, “You’re lucky to be in a room with this man. Pay your respect.” I’d pay to see him ’til the last second just to be around him. It was nice that in the last 10, 20 years, he really did get his due. There was some justice to that.