King of Kings

Guitar legend and Las Vegas fixture B.B. King dishes on his musician peers

B.B. King claims residency in Las Vegas. He also has a club that bears his name that opened in November at The Mirage. Still, don’t expect to find him lounging at home. At 84, King still tours much of the year, including two shows Aug. 16-17 at the B.B. King’s Blues Club. Vegas Seven caught up with him and collected some stories from the blues god about his fellow musicians:

On Willie Nelson:

“Do you know what my favorite song is? You ain’t going to believe this. It is by Willie Nelson. It is called ‘Always on My Mind.’ That song says a lot of things I would like to say to a lot of my old loves and a lot of my old friends. … When I first met him, I was in Nashville. I believe the place was called Exit Inn. This particular night I was feeling good, I was still drinking then and I was just about to sing ‘Nightlife,’ and I raised up and looked right into Willie’s face, and my knees started wobbling. I had the St. Vitus Dance. I said his name, and he was really nice. He came up and shook hands with me, and treated me like he’d known me for years. We’ve been the best of friends since that night.”

On Frank Sinatra:

“How I got into Vegas was through Frank Sinatra. I don’t know how it is now, but it used to be if you were coming to Vegas, whoever the star was in the main showroom, he had to want you to come. And my manager sent Frank Sinatra a telegram asking if I could come in. And he sent a telegram right back to us that said, ‘Hell yes.’ He was at Caesars Palace then. We used to be in Nero’s Nook. It was a boat. That is where I could play. And we did well when Sinatra was there. We met, and I would see him occasionally until he died.”

On Keith Richards:

“Keith and I used to argue all the time. They were friendly arguments. We argued about guitar playing and girls. You name it, he has been on my case about it. He is a great guitar player. He and the Edge of U2 are two of the greatest rhythm guitarist alive. They are different. Edge is one guy that plays a whole orchestra behind U2.”

On Eric Clapton:

“Eric is a good friend of mine. I didn’t have an electric guitar until I was like 16 because we did not have electricity. So, when I got an electric guitar I stuck with it. I still do. But when we did a record together, ‘Key to the Highway,’ he wanted me to do acoustic sound, and I didn’t want to do it. And had it not been for him, I wouldn’t have. The album is called Riding With the King. We both play acoustic guitars on ‘Key to the Highway.’ Eric is not just a great guy, but he is very wise when it comes to music and recording.”