9.26.2014

That Guy on The Cosby Show




A couple of weeks ago, Janie Kathryn and I were browsing the Pink Palace gift shop when she spotted a book cover with a familiar face. "Mama, isn't that the guy from The Cosby Show." (I'll come back to this.) At the time, all I could think was that she needed to know who B.B. King is. Everyone in Memphis should know B.B. King!

I was excited to use our upcoming tour of the Gibson Guitar Factory as a little introduction. I wasn't kidding myself... I knew the child wouldn't be "into" the blues. Nonetheless, she was going to know about them! The Pandora station played the blues until our tour date finally arrived.

We arrived at Gibson and I squeezed in a little preparatory info before I lost her to her friends. I surrendered the teaching role to our tour guide after that, but not before ensuring our tour would include the story of how B.B.'s guitar got its name.


If you're reading this and you took the tour with us, the story of Lucille was flawed. If you're reading this and you had a part in conducting our tour of the factory, thank you so, so much. It was awesome, of course! But maybe I should include the more accurate story of Lucille, as I know it... for posterity. If you are interested in the more accurate story of Lucille's name, it's included at the end of this post.

Back to the Cosbys. After the tour, we walked down Beale Street, where I would have tortured my child with more music history had it just been the two of us. I admit that I was pleased when she pointed out signage featuring B.B. King and called him by name. I laughed and shared with a couple of other moms the bit about Janie Kathryn calling him "the guy from The Cosby Show." The reaction was a cross between absurdity and humor, which struck me later... when I realized I left off the part about B.B. King actually being on an episode of The Cosby Show. He played blues great, Riley Jackson.

So, yes my dear, sweet, show tunes-loving, jelly shoes-wearing, never-miss-a-beat, I-don't-wanna-sing-the-blues, child. 
That is the guy from The Cosby Show.

If you're not still watching The Cosby Show and interested in learning or sharing more Memphis music history, a 15-minute documentary overview highlighting the roots of the Memphis sound and the origins in country & western and blues music can be found here. It's a great start!

How Lucille Got Her Name
Way back when, perhaps the late 40s or early 50s, King was playing a juke joint in the tiny town of Twist, AR. (I have no idea where that is, but I remember the alliteration.) While he was playing a bar room brawl broke out, over a woman, and someone was pushed into a makeshift kerosene heater. (Apparently, this type of fire hazard was common back then.) The entire venue caught on fire and everyone had to rush out. I've heard varied accounts of fatalities, but the one thing that never varies about the story is that when B.B. King fled the fire, he failed to take his guitar. So, he ran back into the burning building to save it. After that night he named his guitar Lucille, after the woman over which the bar fight began. All his guitars were named Lucille, including all the models Gibson has made for him. He tells people that he chose that name to remind him to never be so stupid as to leave his guitar behind, never run into a burning building, and NEVER fight over a woman.




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