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Thrill isn't gone when B.B. King goes home

After the festival in his name, the 81-year-old musician's summer blues tour heads to 16 cities with singers Etta James and Al Green.

July 03, 2007|Kathy Hanrahan | Associated Press

JACKSON, MISS. — B.B. King returned to his hometown of Indianola for the aptly titled "B.B. King Homecoming Festival."

"It is something that I have been doing for 42 years, playing free for the kids," the 81-year-old blues legend said. "Watching them grow."

With his trademark guitar that he named "Lucille," King is one of the nation's most influential blues musicians. His long list of hits includes "The Thrill Is Gone," "Every Day I Have the Blues" and "You Upset Me Baby."

In December, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his musical contributions.

King, who was born on a plantation in Itta Bena near Indianola, said no one famous came to town to play music for the children when he was growing up.

"I wanted to let them know that if B.B. King can do it, they can do it better," he said.

King's busy schedule also included a 16-city blues festival tour with Etta James and Al Green starting July 24 and Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival in the Chicago suburb of Bridgeview, Ill., on July 28. The festival will benefit Crossroads Centre, the drug-rehab facility Clapton founded in Antigua a decade ago.

"Trying to come onstage after Etta James is frightening," King joked during a recent telephone interview with the Associated Press. He said Green was equally as frightening to follow.

"I know both of them, they are really fiery onstage," he said.

He took a break from music while in Indianola for the June 9 homecoming festival to visit the site of the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center. The $14-million museum is scheduled to open Sept. 16, 2008 -- King's birthday.

"It does carry my name and we're hoping that it will do a lot for the Delta and a lot as far as education is concerned," he said.

A statue of King is located in B.B. King Park, along a corridor that will lead visitors to the museum. King said he "highly approves" of the statue's likeness.

"Kiddies get a chance to come by and take a look at it," he said. "I'm really proud of it."

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