So, we're driving through downtown Jackson, MS, on a recent Saturday evening, to the club where we will play, Underground 119. Robert, our resident Jacksonian, has played there before, and has assured us it is as nice a place as we will play, anywhere. We are ready. We have just left Robert's house, where we enjoyed a short rehearsal, a long game of HORSE on a 6-foot kiddie goal--won by Kenny with a Jabbarrian sky hook-- and a clothes change, and we are feverish with excitement to play at a place where folks dress up in suits and dresses just to hear music.
We pull into the back parking lot, and right off we like this place. The back door, where we will unload our equipment, is mere feet from the stage area. We walk in and are awed. Leather chairs and sofas compose a posh lounge area in front of the stage. A large mural backdrops a pub-table seating area off to the side. Framed black-and-whites of blues masters line a wall behind a row of dining tables. Art looms everywhere, on practically every remaining wall--funky headshots of blues greats; barroom scenes; an old-time scene of a guy at a table with his best girl, slipping his phone number to a mistress at the next table. And then, hanging on the wall right behind where we will be playing, is a whimsical print that stops us cold.
We have been told upon our arrival that the club's owner is up in Indianola, at the tribute to BB King that is taking place following the great man's burial. About to listen to Stevie Wonder, or some such thing. As we are told this, we spy the picture behind the stage. It is a large painting of King himself, eyes closed, clutching Lucille, coaxing from her, one can imagine, a sweet, sweet note. For the entire night, we will be playing with the King watching over us.
Much has been said, in the two preceding weeks since his passing at age 89, of the immeasurable influence this big man with the bigger voice and the biggest soul has had on the world of music. The world owes this man, and as we begin to play and the club fills to capacity with an enthusiastic suit-and-dress crowd we are humbled. We couldn't shine BB King's shoes, musically speaking—who could?--but here we are, playing and, like much of the world on this night, honoring him. We are grateful.
Many thanks to Dowden, Frank, Albert the bass-thumpin' cook, John the skin-slappin' sound man, Matt for booking us, and all the wonderful staff at 119. Everyone treated us like royalty, and we appreciate it.
Long live the King.
~Signing off, til next time...Stomp On!