B.B. King, circa 1970-something

I remember seeing B.B. King a few months after the Hofheinz Pavillion opened on the UH campus (1970?). It was King’s birthday. Blues phenom Johnny Winter opened the show and then King and his band, which included half a dozen Houstonians, roared through a huge set that culminated in his mega-hit “The Thrill Is Gone.” As the show ended, King told the crowd to follow him down Scott Street to the Continental Ballroom, a showcase black club in those days. Well, my buddies and I made our way there. King and Winter jammed with King’s band, and it was way beyond insane, way beyond anything that I can imagine happening today. Eventually, a huge multi-tiered birthday cake was wheeled in and King called out that everyone should come down and get a piece of cake. We were three out-of-place young hippies standing at the rear of the room, but the smallest guy in our group said, “I don’t know about you pussies, but I’m going down there and get me some of B.B. King’s birthday cake.” He came back in five minutes empty-handed, and we asked why he didn’t get any cake. He told us he’d made it to the cake but “my knife wasn’t long enough to cut a piece.” It was one of the most thrilling evenings of my musical life. -- William Michael Smith

B.B. King performs on Thursday, June 21, at the Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Post Office, Galveston, 800-821-1894.

See our show preview here.

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