Archive for May, 2015

Good Night, Lucille (A Tribute to B.B. King)

Posted in Jazz, Music with tags , , , , , , on Sunday, 17 May 2015, by Stan

What can be said when the man who has arguably defined and popularized an entire musical genre for eight decades passes on? How will Blues past be remembered now that its King has gone on to join those that have gone before him – names like John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, T-Bone Walker, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Lightnin’ Hopkins? What will the future hold for the Blues? Yes, I know Blues is in good hands, especially when you see and hear groups like The Homemade Jamz Blues Band. But it feels as though Blues has lost its leader.

Riley B. King left us on Thursday night. I heard it on the news the next morning. Although I knew he had to cancel some shows last year due to health issues, I figured he and Lucille would be back on the stage after a couple of months.

During his life, countless awards and honors have deservedly been bestowed upon King. B.B. was also a spokesman in the fight against diabetes, which he had been battling for the last two decades or so. But that didn’t stop him from performing. In fact, his love of performing is what kept him going for so long. He was still giving concerts right up until last year.

King was able to incorporate Rock and Roll, Jazz, traditional Blues, Swing, and Pop into his unique style. While doing so, he influenced innumerable artists from across the musical landscape. Artists from the world of Jazz, Country, R&B, Rock and Roll, Blues, Rock, Pop, and more have all drawn on King’s stylings and recordings for their own projects.

Over the course of a career that has spanned nearly 75 years, King has recorded almost 60 albums. It was a song he cut with The Crusaders called “Better Not Look Down” that lead to a long resurgence in his career. After hearing it, I gained even more respect for this man whose music was now spanning several generations.

I’ve heard B.B.’s recording of  “Lucille” several times on SirusXM radio channel 70. Fittingly, the station is called BB King’s Bluesville. This song is a perfect example of why Blues is one of the best mediums for storytelling. Just listen to the lyrics. Bet it answers a lot of questions you’ve had about B.B.’s life. Then play it again. This time listen to Lucille embellish the story. Pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

I would guess that Lucille will either go on to a museum or be buried with King. It just would not seem right for anyone else to play that guitar.

Lucille

 

My first introduction to the music of B.B. King was via a song he released in 1962 called “Mashing the Popeye”. My parents had – and still have – a recording of this on a 45rpm. Remember those? My parents played this song quite often in our house. Not only did this song stay in my mind since I first heard it as a toddler, something about it stuck in my subconscious as well: the sound of a baritone saxophone. At that young age I had no idea what a baritone sax was. It wasn’t until junior high school that I actually got to play the instrument that made those sounds I was hearing on that record.

 

Mashing the Popeye

 

While looking up the links for “Lucille” and “Mashing the Popeye”, this next clip unexpectedly popped up on the YouTube player. It is concert footage I was surprised and extremely pleased to find. Why? Because I was at the Beverly Theatre during that concert. That was the night I got to meet Mr. King in person. As if meeting Mr. King in person was not enough, several other celebrities were in the audience and a few were called up on stage. (You’ll have to see the clip; no spoilers here).

 

James Brown and B.B. King – One Special Night – Legends in Concert

 

After 89 years, Riley King’s life has reached the coda. Rest in peace, Mr. King. And thank you for your musical and personal legacy. Thank you for the countless people whose lives you have made an impression upon.

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Ode to the Motorola V710

Posted in Blog with tags , , on Tuesday, 5 May 2015, by Stan

Motorola V710

My flip phone, the venerable Motorola V710, finally took its last breath this weekend. It faithfully rode shotgun with me for 10 years. Obviously, as demonstrated by that fact that I am penning an elegy to a phone, I really liked my Motorola V710 and am going to miss it a lot. (Cue “Taps”).

When it came out late in 2004, it was top of the line. The flip action was as functional as it was cool to operate. (Think Star Trek). It was Verizon’s first Bluetooth phone. It had a large 2.2-inch display screen. And it had a ton of other features.

At the time I purchased the phone, the representative suggested I get the extended life battery if I was going to pair the phone to a Bluetooth headset, which I was. That extended life battery was good enough to provide me a week’s worth of power even with me making/receiving calls and sending/receiving texts throughout the day. I usually I shut the phone down at night to conserve power.

It was one of the first CDMA-capable phones to use Bluetooth technology. It had voice recognition, a feature that I eagerly (and frequently) showed off to my coworkers when I first got the phone. When it first came out, it boasted a 1.2 megapixel camera, placing at the forefront for phones with cameras. An expansion slot for a memory card made it possible to store extra photos and…custom ringtones!

Sound quality was superb, with clarity approaching that of a land line. When I first got the phone, many people could not tell I was talking to them from a cell phone. This was back when almost all cell phones had that tell-tale digitized distortion that prompted the person on the other end to ask, “Are you on a cell phone?” Not with this baby! And it dropped calls far less often than other phones.

My V710 featured an analog band in addition to GSM and CDMA bands, a combo commonly called tri-band. This allowed my V710 to work in places where the digital phones could not. Like remote areas. Like areas where if you were stranded, you’d be thankful your phone got a signal. With this phone I was able to place and receive calls and/or texts in places like highway 285 leading to Roswell, New Mexico, areas of Central California, and lesser-known locations in Nevada. I was able to use it in Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico City, and Ensenada, Mexico,  Rostock, Germany, and all over Jamaica – all without a SIM card or an international calling plan. Speaking of Jamaica, when our flight got cancelled one year and our group had to stay overnight in Montego Bay, it was my V710 the group used to notify people stateside of our status. No one else’s phone worked.

There were many opportunities to replace it, but little things that other newer phones couldn’t do kept convincing me to keep my V710 in service. Then, of course, there was the cost of replacing it. Even the grief I was starting to get more frequently from friends and family alike couldn’t persuade me to part with my trusty phone.

Honestly, I had known this day was coming for a few years now. My first inkling was when it came time to replace the battery again and the Verizon store no longer stocked them. Then, when the belt clip finally broke after several years of daily use, I had to get a new case from Amazon. By then they were being sold at giveaway prices. Signs of the impending end started becoming more frequent: Verizon discontinued their Pix Place so I no longer had a way to easily store my photos and download them to my computer. The last two extended life batteries I ordered were already a couple of years old by the time I got them. That let me know the battery was no longer being manufactured, and eventually I wouldn’t be able to get one. Not too long ago, Verizon dropped my V710 and other non-smart phones from eligibility for an upgrade allowance.

Over the last six or so months, it became harder and harder to charge the phone. The contacts on the phone had worn down so much that making a solid connection with the charger became increasingly difficult. Last Friday night, I could no longer get the phone to charge at all. “That’s it, then,” I thought, as reality sunk in. Now I’m forced to get a new phone.

Once the battery indicator started beeping, I realized I needed to get the photos I wanted to keep off the phone and stored somewhere else. My V710 sent about four photos with lots of sentimental value before it gave up the ghost. Unfortunately, gone is a video of my first grandson’s first steps. Gone are some beautiful photos from my commute. Gone are a couple of pictures of close family friends. Gone are photos of strange but true incidents. Its last act of service was texting a photo of my son to another phone so I could store it later on a hard drive somewhere. It died seconds after completing that transmission.