Blues-rocker David Gogo opened for the legendary B.B. King in his hometown of Nanaimo last Tuesday (March 5).
Since we're tweetin' buddies (follow him at @DavidGogoBlues) I asked Dave-O if he wanted to shoot me a little write-up about himself and the master.
Here's what he sent:
When I first started playing blues music professionally I was told that the genre had a high floor but a low ceiling. Meaning that there would always be blues bars and some festivals to keep you working, but you're never going to be selling out arenas. This seemed fine with me. Over the years the ceiling has sometimes been raised higher and sometimes it got low. Really fucking low.
If anyone knows the ups and downs of the world of blues, it's the undisputed master Mr. B.B. King. Naturally, when I was offered to open a show for him in my own hometown I jumped at the chance. I have been lucky enough to have this opportunity a couple of times before in my career. The first time was in Switzerland at the prestigious Montreaux Jazz Festival, whose organizer Claude Nobs ("Funky Claude" of "Smoke on the Water" fame) arranged for me to actually play on stage with B.B. and trade licks with him and other guests such as Otis Rush and Big Jay McNeely. The ceiling seemed to rise dramatically that night.
Soon after I released my first album but things didn't work out as planned. Strained relations with the record company and chaos on a management level soon left me dazed and confused. It wasn't long before the ceiling got low again. Real fucking low.
After pulling myself out of the haze and working hard to get back on track, about seven years ago I once again opened for the King, this time in Toronto. The band and I had a smokin' set and I was invited to hang for a few hours with the man himself. Magic. He was a prince and so inspiring and respectful of what I was all about. He asked for a copy of my latest album and floored me when he asked me to autograph it for him! I felt the headroom again...
Fast forward to now. I am the same age as B.B. was in his "Thrill Is Gone" heyday. I have released 12 albums, toured all over, been nominated for many kudos and accolades--even won a few. The ceiling feels at a good height these days. My wife and I had just returned from a blues pilgrimage through Mississipi and the surrounding area where the presence of B.B. King was everywhere, from Memphis down to Helena, Arkansas, and into Indianola where we visited his museum. To get the e-mail about the opening gig in Nanaimo seemed to be timed perfectly.
The day of the show was a buzz. The concert sold out before it was even formally announced and local folks seemed to be proud that a hometown guy like me was on the bill. My set went off pretty well. A solo show in front of a sold-out house while everyone is waiting for a true legend to play can be daunting, but I seemed to pull it off. Then it was star time...
B.B. lived up to his billing in every way. The consummate showman, his enthusiasm and rapport with the crowd cover up any signs of age that inevitably encroach on a musician's abilities. After the show I managed to thank him for the opportunity and introduce him to my wife and son. Always gracious and friendly, I felt so honoured to have had this experience yet again in my life. When I shook his hand as he left the theatre I had a small feeling that it might be the last time I get to do that. My ceiling will never be as high as B.B. King's, but he made me feel like it was that night.
Anybody else with a Gogo-like love of B.B. King can see him in action at Richmond's River Rock Show Theatre tomorrow night.