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Also when we were there they had him on TV. At this time, he was 80 years old, and they said, “You know, you’re 80 years old. You could retire. You’ve played everywhere, you’ve done everything. You could retire now.”
He said, “I don’t want to retire. I want to play because I want my band to keep workin’. I’m out here for them. Plus I like doin’ it too.” That made us feel real good. We had no idea [about the comment], we were just watching TV back in the room and saw he was on there so we said, hey, let’s watch this. So that was nice; it made us feel really warm to hear him say that.
How many shows a year are you guys doing now?
250 now. He’s 82 years old and he’s still playing that much. He’s starting to cut down – he thinks he might cut down to 150, but he hasn’t yet.
What advice do you have for PG readers?
Trust what you feel, because that’s what it’s all about. B.B. doesn’t know a whole lot about music when it comes to chords and all that, but his feel carries him in a jazz situation, a blues situation or a rock situation. And he has no idea as to the technical side of what he’s doing. There’s no method, no pattern – it’s just his heart and his feeling. That’s all that really mattered. How clever you are and how tricky – all that’s fine, but if your heart isn’t stronger than that, it still don’t mean nothin’. [Patting his chest] This here can take care of all of it, but you have to trust it. You can’t be afraid. You have to go on it and stick it out there. That’s what I advise.
Tell me about your gear.
I love my Byrdland. As a matter of fact, to show you how good Mr. King is… When I started playing with him, I had a [another guitar]. And I felt funny [due to the King/Gibson connection], so I called Gibson to ask for an endorsement. And they said, “Well, it’s going to cost you $5000. It’s really $17,000, but you play with B.B.”
So I went to B.B. and asked him what I should do. He asked me what I wanted, I told him, and he said, “Well, go down to the Gibson place and play all of ‘em, and when you find the one you like, let me know.” And I went down and played all of them, and then I saw the Byrdland that you saw me playin’. They had chairs all around it and a sign that said, “Do not touch. Do not come within five feet.” I said, “That’s the one I want right there.” So I left the store and went back to the room. I told Mr. King, “Yeah, I saw a Byrdland I liked.”
We were workin’ that night, and when I got to the dressing room the guitar was sitting there. I mean, I didn’t know I was gonna get that! There was a guy waiting, he said, [mimicking nervous voice] “Oh, I’m so glad you came because I wanted to give this to you directly. I didn’t want to be responsible for $17,000.” So I went to Mr. King and said, “Thank you sir so much for gettin’ that guitar for me.” And he said, “Is there anything else I could do for you?” I said [laughs] “Aw, no man!”
So what kind of amp do you use?
Actually, that’s a Lab, that’s an L7. I like it because…
[Road manager hollers at Charlie]
Sorry man, you know, when we’ve gotta go, we’ve gotta go.
And like a well-oiled machine, the entire band, Charlie included, was on the road again, no questions asked.
Photos: Andrea Shriver Concert Photography