I worked at Madison Square Garden for nearly 30 years, and for pretty much that entire time I had the same two framed pictures, taken at The World’s Most Famous Arena by famed Garden photographer George Kalinsky, hanging on my office walls: one of The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, bathed in gorgeous purple stage lights, and the other of The King Of The Blues, Mr. B.B. King, resplendent in a glittery tux jacket and wincing in apparent pain at the impossibly high note he’s managed to hit on his renowned Gibson guitar “Lucille” (in 1994 I added a third Kalinsky of equal grandeur, Captain Mark Messier hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup). I lived through a lot in my time at MSG – remarkable people, unforgettable events, the unprecedented “transformation” of the arena, and some dark days, too, all the while with B.B. King’s regal presence hovering directly across from my desk. But a few years ago, for a considerable variety of reasons, I knew something for certain: to borrow from one of B.B.’s more memorable lines, it was finally time to be moving on.¹
Besides setting the tone in my office throughout my working career, B.B. King has always held something of a special place for me and for my family. Like for so many, he was my introduction to the blues, a profoundly important gateway to the most impactful music of my adult life. I saw him in concert countless times, with my son, with my dad, but most often with my friend Zing, where we would take endless amusement in his repeated introduction by his trumpeter/bandleader, James Bolden, not as The King of the Blues, but as “That Dynamic Gentleman of The Blues.” Blues Boy (that’s what the B.B. stood for, if you weren’t sure) would never fail to leave us spellbound, not with any prodigious barrage of notes but simply with the pristine way that he played them. In fact, I’d posit that with consideration to any of those thought to be among history’s guitar greats, B.B. King played by far the fewest notes of anyone. The manner that he could hold just one, though, with divine vibrato, was unequaled. King, as you might now guess, was played a lot in my house, and my son, Max, perhaps as a result, once wrote a school essay about him that began, “I love B.B. King. I don’t know why. God just made me that way.” He was in 1st grade at the time.
Max is now 26 years old, still with love for B.B. but long since moved out of our suburban house, likewise our more recent college graduate, Mary. For my wife Laurie and I, the proverbial nest in which we raised them is now empty, and once more, bittersweet and painful as it most surely is, I’m moving on again. I leave my home of 28 years this week, poised for change and anxiously searching for useful beacons to help light my new way. For me, one of those will inevitably always be B.B. King. I’m moving on, B.B., I trust you’ll assist with the directions.
¹maybe I could have instead declared the thrill is gone.