For more than half a century, Riley B. King - better known as B.B. King - has defined the blues for a worldwide audience. Since he started recording in the 1940s, he has released over fifty albums, many of them classics. He was born September 16, 1925, on a plantation in Itta Bena, Mississippi, near Indianola. In his youth, he played on street corners for dimes, and would sometimes play in as many as four towns a night. In 1947, he hitchhiked to Memphis, TN, to pursue his music career. Memphis was where every important musician of the South gravitated, and which supported a large musical community where every style of African American music could be found. B.B. stayed with his cousin Bukka White, one of the most celebrated blues performers of his time, who schooled B.B. further in the art of the blues.
B.B.'s first big break came in 1948 when he performed on Sonny Boy Williamson's radio program on KWEM out of West Memphis. This led to steady engagements at the Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis, and later to a ten-minute spot on black-staffed and managed Memphis radio station WDIA. "King's Spot," became so popular, it was expanded and became the "Sepia Swing Club." Soon B.B. needed a catchy radio name. What started out as Beale Street Blues Boy was shortened to Blues Boy King, and eventually B.B. King.
Over the years, B.B. has developed one of the world's most identifiable guitar styles. He borrowed from Blind Lemon Jefferson, T-Bone Walker and others, integrating his precise and complex vocal-like string bends and his left hand vibrato, both of which have become indispensable components of rock guitarist's vocabulary. His economy, his every-note-counts phrasing, has been a model for thousands of players, from Eric Clapton and George Harrison to Jeff Beck. B.B. has mixed traditional blues, jazz, swing, mainstream pop and jump into a unique sound. In B.B.'s words, "When I sing, I play in my mind; the minute I stop singing orally, I start to sing by playing Lucille."
Ray Goren, opening, was born an old soul and born to play the blues. He’s been coined a genius, a prodigy, a phenomenon, and a world-class musician at the tender age of 12. His story is just beginning. At the age of three, Ray was playing nursery songs on a toy keyboard. By the age of five Ray was listening to jazz and playing by ear his own versions of songs by his favorite artists, Thelonious Monk, Lee Morgan, Milt Jackson, Miles Davis, Jackie McLean and Oscar Peterson. His father relates that within days of getting his first guitar at age eight, Ray was actually playing the blues. It was as if he had reconnected with a long-lost friend.
Ray has emerged onto the Southern California blues scene appearing on the main stages of the nationally acclaimed Doheny Blues Festival (2012), Chicago Blues Festival (2012), Monterey Blues Festival (2012), and the Detroit Jazz Festival (2011) to name just a few. Ray has also performed with world-renowned musicians including Buddy Guy, Jonny Lang and Robby Krieger. Ray’s quest for the real blues brought him to Watts in South Central Los Angeles. Far from the festival and club scenes he found a bustling sub-culture of makeshift juke joints where the soul food is hot off the stove, the laughter is loud, and pure blues is in the air. Ray formed The Generation Blues Experience. The mystical connection between young Ray and his old-timer musical peers who have been playing the blues for decades demonstrates the pure Power of Blues Music by defying age and time. Bobby "Hurricane" Spencer, producer of Ray’s recent album and who's been playing saxophone for more than 50 years and played with the likes of Etta James and Otis Redding describes Goren as the young Mozart of the Blues. Spencer isn't the only old-timer who feels that way. Sammy Lee has been playing harmonica for 30 of his 65 years says the kid is incredible. "Very soulful," Lee says. "Got a whole lot of soul for a young man. He plays with a feeling. I’ve been around a whole lot of blues people. Lot of people play what they hear. He plays what he feels and you can tell.” Jamie Powell—a 78 year old blues guitarist for 53 years invokes the name of one of the greats when asked about Goren's ability. "They think Stevie Ray Vaughan was bad? This is gonna be bad," he said. "They can't take nothing from him." Delivering a true multigenerational experience, Bluesboy Jamie Powell and Harmonica Sammy Lee will both be playing with Ray Goren at the Golden State Theatre where they are featured as the opening act for BB King. A young boy with an old soul is definitely changing the face of the blues.