The 1987 Cinemax concert special A Blues Session: B.B. King and Friends kicked off with one of the single most star-packed jam sessions ever held outside the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King, Phil Collins, Dr. John, Etta James, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, Paul Butterfield and Billy Ocean all came together at the tiny Ebony Showcase Theater in Los Angeles to perform a supremely upbeat rendition of “Why I Sing the Blues.”
The show, which was directed by Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich, continued on with the rock and blues legends collaborating on “The Thrill Is Gone,” “The Sky Is Fallin’,” “Precious Lord” and “Ain’t Nobody’s Business.” “It is a rare kind of music special,” noted New York Times writer John J. O’Connor, “that leave you wanting more.”
Paul Butterfield died of a drug overdose less than a month after the show was taped, and the Cinemax broadcast was dedicated to the late blues icon. Stevie Ray Vaughan died three years later, and Albert King passed away two years after that. B.B. King, however, is still going strong at 88 and touring at a pace that would exhaust most anyone half his age.