Editor's note: Read our cover story on The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band and their new album So Delicious. The band is currently on tour in Europe.
Having a voice in music is the hardest thing. It isn't that hard to become a virtuoso... It takes time. If you write enough songs, you might accidentally write a good one. However, most people play an instrument, sing or write songs their whole life and never truly have a voice. I'm talking about an instantly recognizable voice. The best musicians have that recognizable voice. On the guitar, names like Chuck Berry, Angus Young, Bo Diddley, Jimi Hendrix and Bukka White come to mind. There are more of course, but play a few seconds of any of those names, and you will know instantly who is playing the guitar.
BB King could do that with one note. Literally, he could play one note and you could instantly recognize his playing. Think about that for a second. There are a billion guitar players, a trillion guitars, so many notes, so much "tone," and BB King could play a single note on the guitar and not only would you know it was him, but it would be perfect. Are there perfect notes? Yes, and BB King pretty much only played perfect notes. His taste and restraint as a musician are beyond compare. His disciples are many, his influence almost infinite, but still no one comes close to doing as much as he did with so few notes. His left hand vibrato has been so copied that I imagine most people don't realize who they are really copying. BB King, in trying to copy his uncle Bukka White's slide guitar playing, revolutionized single string guitar notes with that perfect vibrato.
I was able to see him live five times, and he was such a showman. As he got older, he performed sitting down and still had more life on stage than most bands one fifth his age. His autobiography inspired me, and I reference it often in life, in music, and in music business.
Last year we played a blues festival in Las Vegas, and BB King was the headliner. It would be one of his last shows. After we played and he played, I got to hang out backstage with the legend himself. I've met so many famous musicians, athletes, royalty, political figures and VIPs over the years. But no one — and I mean no one else — has ever made me feel like he did. I was literally shaking. Almost in tears like a preteen girl at a One Direction meet and greet. He gave me his attention, he was gracious, he was kind, and other than feeling his presence like a weight, you wouldn't have known by the way that he was carrying himself that we were in the company of a true king. He treated everyone like they were special. Despite being a giant in music, in culture, and wealth, you wouldn't know it by the way he acted. I wish I knew how to be so humble.
An era has ended. His music will live on forever, but there will never be another BB King. He really was the last of his generation out there touring and making music too. There is still more great music to be made, but it will be different. The whole world is different without BB King. Whether or not people realize it, it is true. BB King changed American music. American music has once again been altered by his passing. I personally am heartbroken. I just hope he knew how much so many of us loved him and the perfect notes that he played.