Vermillion musician to open for B.B. King concert

Vermillion musician to open for B.B. King concert by M. Jill Karolevitz Vermillion musician T. Wilson King's repertoire may include singing the blues, but he's happy to do so these days after receiving word that he is the opening act for an upcoming B.B. King concert.

B.B. King will perform Sunday, Nov. 18 at the Orpheum Theatre in Sioux City, IA. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are available at the theatre box office or through Ticketmaster.

King's involvement in fund-raising efforts to acquire one of B.B. King's Gibson Lucille guitars for the Shrine to Music Museum in Vermillion was instrumental in clinching the performance. Dave Bernstein, a Sioux City concert promoter, helped King with the connections to get B.B. King's autograph on the Shrine's Lucille after it was purchased.

"It was through Lucille that I got this opportunity," King said. "B.B. King was scheduled to do the show and Dave Bernstein called and asked if I would open."

King accepted the offer without hesitation.

"I was stunned," he said. "It was a dream come true � opening up for one of my personal heroes and playing at the Orpheum Theatre."

B.B. King is known as one of the greatest blues artists of all time. Born in 1925 in Mississippi, his musical talent began as he sang in a gospel choir during his childhood. Thanks in part to an aunt who collected blues and jazz records, he became fascinated with the blues and playing guitar.

B.B. King hitchhiked to Memphis in 1946 and from there rose to national fame after his song Three O'Clock Blues made the top of Billboard magazine's R&B charts in 1952.

"B.B. King's music brings together the style of the deep south where he grew up and the big city style of Memphis," King said. "It is a melding of country blues and jazz blues in a joyful way � with a voice full of soul. And he is so entertaining to watch."

King, who has met "the king of the blues" twice � once when the musician signed Lucille for the Shrine to Music � also appreciates B.B. King the man.

"He is warm, generous and giving," King said. "He is interested in bringing people together through music and he is one of the last survivors of that blues genre."

King grew up in Sioux City, IA, and cut his musical teeth singing while his mom played piano. As a teen, he sang in various bands, which included doing a show with the late Tommy Bolin.

But it was gospel and blues � what King calls the original rock 'n roll � that moved him.

"That music spoke to me in a way unlike any other music," he said. "Its deep feeling has a way of uplifting people and as soon as I heard it, I couldn't get enough."

After the Army took him to California, King began seriously pursuing a musical career in the Monterey Bay area and up and down the California coast. Like B.B. King, he taught himself to play the guitar.

"I watched and listened to as many artists as I could," King said. "I listened to records over and over and played with them. And I tried to jam with as many musicians as I could."

From playing on street corners for tips, to performing in coffee shops, clubs and festivals, King has developed a musical style that is a synthesis of folk, rock, gospel, jazz and blues. He has appeared with many popular musicians, including Leo Kottke and Warren Zevon, in venues from Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe, to others "too numerous to remember," he said.

King's memories also include meeting not only B.B. King, but John Lee Hooker, Luther Allison and other legendary musicians.

"Though only a few of them are still with us, their music lives on as vibrant and tireless as if it was recorded yesterday," he said.

King has lived in Vermillion since 1980. His wife Sandi is a special education teacher in Centerville. His daughter Chelsea is a freshman at The University of South Dakota.

"They are my cornerstones," King said of their support and belief in his musical career, which continues with concert performances and recording. But King calls his opening for B.B. King a rebirth, of sorts, "a shot in the arm that will open new doors for me," he said.

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