The B.B. King Blues Band
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About The B.B. King Blues Band
The B.B. King Blues Band is a swinging, hard-touring jump blues outfit dedicated to keeping the music and legacy of their namesake alive by spreading his utterly unique take on the blues to future generations. The group is comprised of actual members of King's touring bands from various periods, including musical director and trumpeter James Bolden, who worked with the guitarist for some 35 years. Other members include vocalist/bassist Russell Jackson, guitarists Jesse Robinson and Wilbert Crosby, drummers Brandon Jackson and Herman Jackson, trumpeter Lamar Boulet, saxophonists Eric Demmer and Walter King, keyboardist Darrell Lavigne, and trombonist Raymond Harris. They have been touring the globe playing King's repertoire since 2017, with unique rearrangements of King's music and often with high-profile guests on vocals and/or guitars. Besides Jackson, the band has featured another pair of lead singers and guitarists: first was Tito Jackson (Jackson 5), who joined the group in the fall of 2017 and played world tours through February of 2019. Michael "The Voice" Lee, the television reality show contestant and guitar slinger, has been touring and recording with the group. Their acclaimed 2019 self-titled debut album featured a host of great blues singers and players including Taj Mahal, Kenny Neal, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
When B.B. King passed away at his home in May of 2015, his longtime manager, Myron John, grieved for a time and then began doing work to preserve and further the legacy of the guitarist. He contacted everyone from the touring group and found out who wanted to continue and who wanted to stop. He contacted King's organization who gave their OK, and then he reached Bolden, a King devotee and the group's musical director, who was eager to participate and go down the list. By September, the B.B. King Blues Band was rehearsing in Bolden's Houston, Texas garage and creating a stage show.
Their first major show was playing behind a host of blues and jazz luminaries (including Irma Thomas, Dr. John, Tab Benoit, and Bonnie Raitt) as part of a King tribute held at the 2016 New Orleans Blues & Jazz Heritage Festival. From there they undertook an American tour, and in 2017, began gallivanting the world. Tito Jackson -- who had been playing and recording blues since 2003 -- joined the tour in August, selling out shows across Europe and the U.S., through February 2019. During breaks, they cut their full-length for Ruf Records, allowing their guests to select the material -- as long as it came from King's repertoire. They enlisted the Texas-born Lee, who they'd witnessed performing King's signature tune "The Thrill Is Gone" on The Voice. He not only cut it for the album, but also joined the band as lead vocalist and lead guitarist on tour after Jackson left. "The Thrill Is Gone" was issued as a pre-release single in December of 2018 and ran up the digital blues charts. The self-titled full-length was released in May of 2019. ~ Thom Jurek