When blues fans gather and the chatter turns to BB King the one thing most share is the opinion that King’s 1964 album, Live at the Regal, was his best. I own the CD and I really can’t disagree, the man was at the top of his game that evening.
Today I watched a video of BB’s 1983 appearance on PBS’s Austin City Limits and came away convinced his game hadn’t lessened over the intervening twenty years.
Check the list of world’s best guitarist and you’ll often find his name near the top (number three in a Rolling Stone list of top one hundred). What always impressed me is how different his signature style is to other guitar slingers. Most, like Stevie Ray Vaughan, built their fame on the number and rapidity of notes they could play. Their styles are maximal while BB was minimal. In the ACL video I was stunned how his band would carry the bulk of an instrumental number with its identity unknown. But let King strike two or three notes and immediately you knew it was BB King’s band. I can’t name another guitarist who I can name with so few notes.
I did a little digging and found that PBS has archived the video of the 1983 ACL appearance. Here a video but I’m not sure if it is the complete program. This may only be part one of several parts. For the rest go to video.pbs.org/video/2365490253.