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Author: Subject: B.B. King -- Chords

Extreme Peach





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  posted on 11/12/2009 at 08:30 PM
I was sitting here listening to Blues On The Bayou, and decided to look up why B.B. doesn't (or can't) play chords. I can't find anything good on google.

Anybody have any good info on how the oddity of a chordless B.B. came to be?

 
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True Peach



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  posted on 11/12/2009 at 09:23 PM
I have definitley heard/read him talk specifically about that topic. But I'll be damned if I can remember what he said. It's out there somewhere. I do recall him saying his playing in the beginning was heavily influenced by trumpeter Louis Jordan, and his trademark vibrato came about trying to emulate the vibrato of a slide guitar.

 

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  posted on 11/12/2009 at 10:51 PM
I don't remember him talking about not being able to play chords..But i do remember reading/hearing about him not being able to Sing And play at the same time.

 

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  posted on 11/12/2009 at 11:44 PM
Love B.B. Named my son after him (Riley). When I met B.B. at the R&R Hall of Fame ceremony in 1987, I said to him, "Whoever told you they were your biggest fan was lying because you're looking at him." He ended up writing the foreword to my second book. I've seen him in concert more times than I've seen the ABB.

BUT, the most awkward performance I ever saw was at Carnegie Hall. The host was Bill Cosby. It was an overly laid-back jazz affair in which Cosby would pick various musicians and have them jam together. Then he turns to B.B. and says, "I've always wanted to hear you perform solo - just you and your guitar." B.B. desperately tried to bow out, but Bill cajoled him into it. And that's when we all learned that B.B. can't play and sing at the same time.

He can play chords. I've seen him do it many times. But he's not a rhythm guitarist. He will occasionally throw in a full chord (as opposed to a single-string solo note) just for emphasis, but he can't strum and sing - and I was there the night he proved it to a packed house at Carnegie Hall.

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  posted on 11/13/2009 at 06:34 AM
As far as I'm concerned, anyone who can play like that...and sing like that..can do them them seperately or any damn way he feels and I don't care ...

I actually saw him on a news program one time (may have been the old NBC Overnight news magazine) years ago, with Johnny Winter. They were talking about the history of the blues and thankfully...they both had their guitars with them.

I remember BB doing a simple I-IV-V chord structure for Johnny so he could demonstrate a lead line. It was a simple pattern but he did it just fine. So I'm with you Randy. He can play chords.

He probably just isn't as comfortable doing it and doesn't feel like he is as proficient at it as he is doing what he does best.



[Edited on 11/13/2009 by les_paul_sunburst]

 

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  posted on 11/13/2009 at 07:23 AM
Check out " Rattle & Hum " U2 movie, He talks with Bono about letting the Edge play the cords cause he is not to good at cords......


There ain't nothing sweeter than a BB vibrato....

 

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  posted on 11/13/2009 at 07:28 AM
He doesn't really need to chord very much , given his style. The band completely carries the rhythm/beat, leaving BB free to add his amazing fills.
 

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  posted on 11/13/2009 at 08:33 AM
quote:
I was sitting here listening to Blues On The Bayou, and decided to look up why B.B. doesn't (or can't) play chords. I can't find anything good on google.

Anybody have any good info on how the oddity of a chordless B.B. came to be?



He doesn't have to. Seriously I don't know if I agree with the tone of your question, but I'll give you the benefit of a doubt ... First off B.B. isn't really known for his chord playing ... is he??? He is so successful that he is one of the few (if only) blues artists still traveling with a full band. The gentleman that B.B. had playing rhythm the last time I saw him was quite accomplished. B.B. probably feels it's better to let someone else handle the rhythm chores - a practice mind you that has always been prevalent in everything from orchestras to rock combos forever ... I'm sure B.B.'s rhythm player appreciates the gig. B.B. has always tried with his guitar playing to emulate more of a horn or more precisely a human voice neither of which by themselves are a chordal instrament. Similar in approach and more closer to home Derek Trucks comes to mind. Someone known more for his lead playing than chordal work and who without his stellar band would not shine so bright IMHO and I'm sure Derek's as well. I mean ... Dude ... it's B.B. King!!! For christ sakes ... He's 84! He's put out close to 100 albums!! He still tours close to 50 to 100 dates a year!!! With the help of Eric Clapton he has had a #1 record ... recently!!!! He has been/still is/always will be the leading proponent, most popular artist, face of and spokesman for the blues ... THE BLUES ... the music without which popular music as we know it wouldn't exist!!! Again B.B. King is 84 ... still a great singer and guitarist. Along with chords B.B. probably isn't too good at flamenco guitar either but it certainly doesn't diminsh his stature in the least. The fact that B.B. may not be a Grant Green or Angus Young for that matter may make you feel better about yourself, but doesn't make the world think less of B.B. ...

 

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  posted on 11/13/2009 at 08:47 AM
"How Blue Can You Get" off Live at Crook County Jail comes to mind as a great example of him throwing a chord in when needed to fill sonic space. But I agree with eveyone else when it is said that his style does not call for it.

There are also lots of references of him learning how to play guitar using a piece of wire nailed to a vertical column on the front porch of his house. He would pick it and pull it at different times to make different notes. Prettu crude and most likely out of necessity. But that doesn't leave much room for learning chords as part of your foundation.

 

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  posted on 11/13/2009 at 09:41 AM
Do a youtube search for him speaking at a music workshop in I think Berkley. It was on A&E or one of those channels a few years back. He had his band with him and is speaking to a class. I think he mentions something about not playing chords. The other thing he doesnít do is sing and play at the same time. If you ever notice, he sings, then he plays, or vice versa, but never at the same time. I love him. Canít wait to listen to the new Stones Get Yer Ya Yas Out. Just picked it up yesterday and one of the disks is his set. Also, if you want a good read, check out his autobiography.
 

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  posted on 11/13/2009 at 09:46 AM
quote:
quote:
I was sitting here listening to Blues On The Bayou, and decided to look up why B.B. doesn't (or can't) play chords. I can't find anything good on google.

Anybody have any good info on how the oddity of a chordless B.B. came to be?



He doesn't have to. Seriously I don't know if I agree with the tone of your question, but I'll give you the benefit of a doubt ... First off B.B. isn't really known for his chord playing ... is he??? He is so successful that he is one of the few (if only) blues artists still traveling with a full band. The gentleman that B.B. had playing rhythm the last time I saw him was quite accomplished. B.B. probably feels it's better to let someone else handle the rhythm chores - a practice mind you that has always been prevalent in everything from orchestras to rock combos forever ... I'm sure B.B.'s rhythm player appreciates the gig. B.B. has always tried with his guitar playing to emulate more of a horn or more precisely a human voice neither of which by themselves are a chordal instrament. Similar in approach and more closer to home Derek Trucks comes to mind. Someone known more for his lead playing than chordal work and who without his stellar band would not shine so bright IMHO and I'm sure Derek's as well. I mean ... Dude ... it's B.B. King!!! For christ sakes ... He's 84! He's put out close to 100 albums!! He still tours close to 50 to 100 dates a year!!! With the help of Eric Clapton he has had a #1 record ... recently!!!! He has been/still is/always will be the leading proponent, most popular artist, face of and spokesman for the blues ... THE BLUES ... the music without which popular music as we know it wouldn't exist!!! Again B.B. King is 84 ... still a great singer and guitarist. Along with chords B.B. probably isn't too good at flamenco guitar either but it certainly doesn't diminsh his stature in the least. The fact that B.B. may not be a Grant Green or Angus Young for that matter may make you feel better about yourself, but doesn't make the world think less of B.B. ...


Wow. I thought this was an interesting question - see nothing wrong with the tone. Thanks for bringing it up and thanks for some of the thoughtful responses.

 

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  posted on 11/13/2009 at 09:51 AM
I didn't take this as a slam on B.B. It's a valid question and B.B. doesn't hide it or talk of it as a hinderance.

 

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  posted on 11/13/2009 at 09:53 AM
Speaking of tone. Forgot I posted this song about a week ago. BB can do no wrong in my book.


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  posted on 11/13/2009 at 10:36 AM
quote:
BB can do no wrong in my book.


We must have that same book.

 

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  posted on 11/13/2009 at 02:19 PM
quote:
quote:
I was sitting here listening to Blues On The Bayou, and decided to look up why B.B. doesn't (or can't) play chords. I can't find anything good on google.

Anybody have any good info on how the oddity of a chordless B.B. came to be?



He doesn't have to. Seriously I don't know if I agree with the tone of your question, but I'll give you the benefit of a doubt ... First off B.B. isn't really known for his chord playing ... is he??? He is so successful that he is one of the few (if only) blues artists still traveling with a full band. The gentleman that B.B. had playing rhythm the last time I saw him was quite accomplished. B.B. probably feels it's better to let someone else handle the rhythm chores - a practice mind you that has always been prevalent in everything from orchestras to rock combos forever ... I'm sure B.B.'s rhythm player appreciates the gig. B.B. has always tried with his guitar playing to emulate more of a horn or more precisely a human voice neither of which by themselves are a chordal instrament. Similar in approach and more closer to home Derek Trucks comes to mind. Someone known more for his lead playing than chordal work and who without his stellar band would not shine so bright IMHO and I'm sure Derek's as well. I mean ... Dude ... it's B.B. King!!! For christ sakes ... He's 84! He's put out close to 100 albums!! He still tours close to 50 to 100 dates a year!!! With the help of Eric Clapton he has had a #1 record ... recently!!!! He has been/still is/always will be the leading proponent, most popular artist, face of and spokesman for the blues ... THE BLUES ... the music without which popular music as we know it wouldn't exist!!! Again B.B. King is 84 ... still a great singer and guitarist. Along with chords B.B. probably isn't too good at flamenco guitar either but it certainly doesn't diminsh his stature in the least. The fact that B.B. may not be a Grant Green or Angus Young for that matter may make you feel better about yourself, but doesn't make the world think less of B.B. ...


Hey man! There was absolutely no "tone" to me question, other than that of a general inquiry. I love B.B. But, the fact is he doesn't play chords. I wasn't asking perjoratively, I was just wondering if there was any good info on why. If a guitar player doesn't play chords there certainly has to be some reason, and now through people's posts, and some more digging through the net, it appears he doesn't play chords b/c he can't / doesn't want to play while singing. Again, no knock, just a fact.

Now THIS next question may strike you as sacrilige, but it's just my personal taste: Is it possible that Clapton's vibrato is better than B.B.'s?? I guess there's no actual answer to such a question, so I'm not really sure why I'm asking it, other than discussion.

 

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  posted on 11/13/2009 at 02:23 PM
quote:
quote:
I was sitting here listening to Blues On The Bayou, and decided to look up why B.B. doesn't (or can't) play chords. I can't find anything good on google.

Anybody have any good info on how the oddity of a chordless B.B. came to be?



He doesn't have to. Seriously I don't know if I agree with the tone of your question, but I'll give you the benefit of a doubt ... First off B.B. isn't really known for his chord playing ... is he??? He is so successful that he is one of the few (if only) blues artists still traveling with a full band. The gentleman that B.B. had playing rhythm the last time I saw him was quite accomplished. B.B. probably feels it's better to let someone else handle the rhythm chores - a practice mind you that has always been prevalent in everything from orchestras to rock combos forever ... I'm sure B.B.'s rhythm player appreciates the gig. B.B. has always tried with his guitar playing to emulate more of a horn or more precisely a human voice neither of which by themselves are a chordal instrament. Similar in approach and more closer to home Derek Trucks comes to mind. Someone known more for his lead playing than chordal work and who without his stellar band would not shine so bright IMHO and I'm sure Derek's as well. I mean ... Dude ... it's B.B. King!!! For christ sakes ... He's 84! He's put out close to 100 albums!! He still tours close to 50 to 100 dates a year!!! With the help of Eric Clapton he has had a #1 record ... recently!!!! He has been/still is/always will be the leading proponent, most popular artist, face of and spokesman for the blues ... THE BLUES ... the music without which popular music as we know it wouldn't exist!!! Again B.B. King is 84 ... still a great singer and guitarist. Along with chords B.B. probably isn't too good at flamenco guitar either but it certainly doesn't diminsh his stature in the least. The fact that B.B. may not be a Grant Green or Angus Young for that matter may make you feel better about yourself, but doesn't make the world think less of B.B. ...


Wow. I just read your whole post. Why are you so pissed? I was just wondering why he didn't play chords. You gotta cool your jets, man.

I don't really like Grant Green or Angus Young, nor do I see how inquiring about a man's playing style would make me feel better about myself.

Finally, basically your entire post is non sequitor. I do not see how his age, the fact that he's still playing, or his success has anything to do with why he doesn't play chords.

Simply incredible.

 

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  posted on 11/13/2009 at 03:04 PM
This Man is a National treasure. He is THE Man . His Tone and Vibrato are his signiture. His voice is honey and fire . One of the most humble ,honest musicians I have EVER had the honor of meeting. I got to meet him backstage after his show a few years ago at the Richmond Mosque ( now called the Landmark Theatre ) . As I was led into the Artists dressing room I came around the corner and there he was sitting in front of one of the dressing room mirrors with lightbulbs surrounding the whole thing. I said I had thought of all kinds of questions but Mr. King I'm tounge tied right now. He had a big stack of promo photos on the table top and I asked if he'd mind signing and old 50's era photo instead. I had brought it along just in case I got to meet him . He said he'd be glad to .When he saw the old photo he cracked that Big smile of his and commented that , "that was a long time ago". I also traded one of my picks for one of his. He kinda just laughed at that one. He probably has a trash can full of 'em. I thanked him for a lifetime of inspiration . I'll never forget that night. I got to meet Royalty. The King.

[Edited on 11/13/2009 by Russvergara]

 

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  posted on 11/13/2009 at 03:10 PM
Was it Albert King when asked about chords stated that he didn't have time for them. Perhaps BB feels the same.

I know the Kings are Kings for a reason.

 

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  posted on 11/13/2009 at 04:00 PM
quote:
Was it Albert King when asked about chords stated that he didn't have time for them. Perhaps BB feels the same.

I know the Kings are Kings for a reason.


Come to think of it, Freddie King didn't play chords either, did he?

 

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  posted on 11/13/2009 at 04:37 PM
Some old issue of HTN i have around somewhere and Albert King says something like"I PAY someone else to play chords." Always struck me as funny.
As Duane once said B.B. could play Happy Birthday, and it'd make you cry.

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 11/13/2009 at 04:50 PM
quote:
Check out " Rattle & Hum " U2 movie, He talks with Bono about letting the Edge play the cords cause he is not to good at cords......


There ain't nothing sweeter than a BB vibrato....


One of my favorite music movie scenes of all time:

BB: "Somebody else gonna have to play cords. I don't play cords too well."

Bono: "Edge can play chords. (laughs) I think there's only two."

 

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  posted on 11/13/2009 at 04:57 PM
I've had the privilege of hanging with B.B. a number of times over the years. My favorite time was when I was on the bus with him once not long after my son was born.

B.B. was between sets at his club on Universal City Walk. It was just me, him, and Jerry Schilling. (If you don't know who Jerry Schilling is, google him.) So, Jerry turns to B.B. and says, "Hey B, Randy named his son after you." B.B. looked a bit confused for a moment (no doubt thinking, "Surely he didn't name his kid B.B.") Jerry says, "He named him Riley." B.B. looked horrified. He looks at me and asks, "How could you do that to the boy?" I told him that the year before, my then-pregnant wife and I and a couple of friends of ours had been at the B.B./Albert/Bobby Blue Bland show at the Gibson Amphitheatre. Before the concert started, I had mentioned that Riley was B.B.'s real name, and we all decided that night that Riley would be a great name for the baby, whether it turned out to be a boy or a girl.

B.B. just couldn't believe it. I later realized that when he thinks of "Riley King," he probably thinks of being a kid, having to work on a plantation in Mississippi. But at that moment, while we were sitting on the bus, he just seemed mystified that anyone would name their child Riley.

The subject changed to other things, and we had a lot of laughs for about 45 minutes. When it was finally time for B.B.'s second set, Jerry and I got up to leave. The last thing B.B. said on our way out was, "Tell Riley I'll be praying for him."

As I said in my earlier post, he was kind enough to write the foreword to my second book, "Squeeze My Lemon," and I convinced my publisher to put him on the cover.

I've never met a nicer, more humble guy in my entire life.



Randy
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  posted on 11/13/2009 at 04:59 PM
He plays chords, just not the one's on everybody elses' guitars.

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 11/13/2009 at 05:21 PM
Chords are overrated....said the bass player.

 

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  posted on 11/13/2009 at 07:41 PM
quote:
I was just wondering why he didn't play chords.


He doesn't have to.

 

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