B.B. King, who died May 14, 2015 at age 89, may have not been as significant an influence on the Beatles as, say, Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry, but there's absolutely no doubt his music was part of the Beatles' world. During the “Let It Be” sessions, John Lennon, on the song “Dig It”, uttered the now immortal words, “Like the FBI and the CIA, and the BBC, B.B. King, and Doris Day, Matt Busby, dig it, dig it, dig it ...” (It was B.B. King's namesake club in New York that, incidentally, was the scene of a tribute for Lennon last December.)
Ringo Starr, whose musical tastes are far wider than rock 'n' roll, played drums on his 1971 “B.B. King in London” album, as did Beatles friend Klaus Voormann and George Harrison friend Gary Wright. At least two Beatles-related pictures from the sessions, one with Voormann here, another with Ringo here, have survived. Wright told writer Tom Frangione for an interview in an upcoming Beatlefan that the always gracious King was just that in talking about Ringo during the session. “After the first song, where Ringo was on drums,” Wright said, “he went back into the control room to listen back to what we had just played. B.B. looked at Ringo after we heard the take and said, 'Man, you keep time like a big clock.'”
Ringo appeared in several places on the album, as did Wright who also composed the song “Wet Hayshark” that featured both Ringo and Jim Gordon on drums, and Voormann on bass. Wright and Voormann also appeared on “Caledonia”, which King often played live, “Blue Shadows”, “We Can't Agree”, “Ghetto Woman”, which also featured Ringo and Gordon, “Ain't Nobody Home” and “Part-Time Love”, which also featured Ringo.
In a 1971 interview, King acknowledged the Beatles and their effect on his career. "I think this started due to the Beatles first. They started people towards really listening. I usually think that they got hip to the fact that there's more than just dancin' to music."
King's performances were always memorable. At one show outdoors at what was then the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California, probably in the late '70s, he was on the bill of the Marlboro Jazz Festival. The crowd clearly loved his music and what he was playing.
That especially showed during “How Blue Can You Get.” As he came to the line that always got the most response from the audience and sang, “I gave you seven children,” his fans, who knew the song all too well, loudly screamed the line that followed -- “AND NOW YOU WANT TO GIVE THEM BACK!” – and then applauded ecstatically. It was an unforgettable moment and a highlight of the show.
King was one of the contributors to “The Art of McCartney” tribute album last year with the not usually heard McCartney song “On the Way.” King gave his usual superbly soulful performance and it was one of the highlights of the otherwise lackluster album.
King always had the reputation of being a kind and gracious man. And even though he played the blues, he managed to bring a wide range of emotions to it. He was the King of the Blues and his guitar work reigned supreme for many rockers, among them Eric Clapton and Peter Green. And, in maybe a small way, the Beatles as well.