In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • B.B. KingSeptember 16, 1925–May 14, 2015
  • William R. Ferris

a farewell

You touched our hearts in such enduring ways. I first heard “The Thrill Is Gone,” when I applied for Conscientious Objector status at Fort Bragg in December 1969. Your song bonded that moment in my memory, and those feelings return each time I hear it.

You and I visited often over the years—overseas in Frankfurt and London; on campuses at Yale University and the University of Mississippi; in Washington at the White House, the Old Post Office, and Constitution Hall; in New Orleans, Memphis, San Francisco, and Vicksburg; in Parchman Penitentiary; and with Alex Haley, Shelby Foote, and Mose Allison aboard the Delta Queen.

I remember your familiar, warm greeting, “Hello, Bill. How is the family?”

In concert, the piercing sound of Lucille’s strings and your powerful vocals respectfully bowed to each other—Lucille never played when you sang, and you never sang when she played.

The expression on your face—eyes closed tight—captured the bottomless grief and long-suffering face of the blues. You defined the sound that is synonymous with the blues. Your blues deliver a clarion call of love that will forever ring around the globe. You marked my heart with your music.

Wherever there is suffering, wherever loneliness, wherever love is felt, your spirit, your voice, your music will be heard. You will live on as the best, the brightest our world has known.

You left this world a far better place than the one you plowed in those Mississippi Delta fields. Your music gave birth to a sound of indescribable beauty— a magisterial work truly befitting a king.

B.B. King, you are our nation’s true royalty. We salute you and your gift of love and beauty.

We carry your memory in our minds and in our hearts. Your great legacy will inspire future generations, just as it has our own. [End Page 118]

Click for larger view
View full resolution

B.B. King at Lucifer’s Club, Boston, 1975. All photographs courtesy of the William R. Ferris Collection, Wilson Library, UNC Libraries.

Click for larger view
View full resolution

B.B. King in the master’s guest suite of Calhoun College the evening before Yale University’s graduation ceremony, where he earned an honorary degree, 1977.

[End Page 119]

Click for larger view
View full resolution

William R. Ferris with B.B. King in Frankfurt, Germany, 1977.

Click for larger view
View full resolution

B.B. King sitting on a sofa in his penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park West underneath a portrait of himself and playing Blues on William Ferris’s Gibson guitar, New York, 1974.

[End Page 120]

William R. Ferris
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 118-120
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.