Last year, blues icon B.B. King released One Kind Favor
, an album that gave him the opportunity to pay tribute to those who were an inspiration to him when he was learning to play.
The blues pioneers that King honored on One Kind Favor
include Blind Lemon Jefferson ("See That My Grave Is Kept Clean"), T-Bone Walker ("I Get So Weary"), Lonnie Johnson ("My Love is Down"), John Lee Hooker ("Blues Before Sunrise") and Big Bill Broonzy ("Backwater Blues").
The way that King feels about these and other musicians who came before him is similar to how B.B. is looked upon by both his peers and artists of succeeding generations who have mentioned the 83-year old guitarist as one of their musical influences.
And while he's been held in such high esteem for quite a long time, King says that he was pretty much unaware of his status among other musicians, including his friend Eric Clapton.
"I've known Eric since the early '60s, but I had never heard it from him or most of the other artists," King told me in August 2004. "I usually heard it from reporters - you know 'so-and-so listens to you.' John Lennon was the only one who told me himself that he listened to me. Imagine that, one of the most influential musicians in the world said that he wanted to play like B.B. King!
"I had wanted to record with Eric for a long, long time before we did (Riding With the King
in 2000). One night I was watching him on one of the talk shows and they asked Eric what he'd like to do, and he said 'record with B.B.' I had my manager get on that right away!"
King says that he considers collaborations with other musicians as "educational" experiences.
"Everyone that I've ever played with has something different than the others," King pointed out. "These people didn't get a name for nothing, they've done something. And when you get to work with them, you can tell what it is - that they're talented."
When asked if there was anyone that he has yet to work with that he wouldn't mind sharing a stage or recording studio, King answered, "That list is so long, you don't have enough time to write them all down."