I had the good fortune to have played on a recording for BB King back in the early 90’s. Honor to have done it but for sure it’s a cred that lots and lots of musicians can claim. Mister King made 100’s of recordings and probably hired 1000’s of musicians. As I recall Albert Collins and John Lee Hooker were also there at the same session. 3x honor.
At one point we took a break and sat out in the lounge drinking coffee and listening to stories. We listened, they talked. After a while there was a long pause in the telling, as if the stories had suddenly run out of gas. We all just sat there, all quiet, staring at the muted tv against the wall.
Switched on to The Beverly Hillbillies.
“You know BB, Buddy Ebsen is Jimmy Pugh’s uncle.”, Richard Cousins allowed.
I didn’t think much of it. I continued to stare at the tv.
Mister King turned to me, “I know Buddy Ebsen.”
“Sure, I’ve known him for a long time. He’s comes and see’s us at the Lighthouse and at Concerts by the Sea. You know he lives down there on Balboa Island.”
Mister King was a fabulous story teller. He really knew how to set it up.
This was a slow conversation. He was in no hurry.
But now I was hooked.
“Uh when did you you meet him?”
He sat there for a while as he considered and then tilted his head back as he considered some more,
“I first met Buddy Ebsen in 1954… at a party at Sammy Cahn’s apartment in New York.”
It took me a while to grasp the idea that my uncle wasn’t just listening to BB King but was actually hanging out with him before I was even born. 1954? At Sammy Cahn’s house no less.
That was just way too hip.
Part of my coolness quotient drained from my face.
Then a few years ago Deborah and I stayed at Fess Parker’s Inn here along the central coast. Bounding down the stairs for dinner that night I caught myself – what the hell?- I heard somebody playing the head to “You Upset Me Baby” on a piano. As I walked down the rest of the stairs I heard,
”Like Being Hit By a Falling Tree, Woman What You Do To Me.”
An older gentleman was seated at the lobby piano playing and singing a relatively obscure BB King tune.
It was Fess Parker.
Singing and playing obscure BB King.
I didn’t ask. It wasn’t a good time.
We ate and went back to the room and I Googled him:
“Davy Crockett is a five-part serial which aired on ABC from 1954-1955 in one-hour episodes, on the Disneyland series. The series stars Fess Parker as real-life frontiersman Davy Crockett and Buddy Ebsen as his friend, George Russel.”
This time with obscure BB King accompaniment on a lobby piano in the middle of nowhere.
I always intended to talk to my uncle about knowing Mister King but then he passed away before I got a chance. And after we moved down here I really intended to ask Fess Parker about him but he too had passed before I got a chance.
And now Mister King is gone as well.
I’m very thankful for friends and relations who are here or now departed.