BB shows Montreux fans why he's "King of the Blues"

Mon Jul 13, 2009 12:18pm EDT
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By Jason Rhodes

MONTREUX, Switzerland (Reuters) - BB King showed why he is still "King of the Blues" at 83 in a welcome return to the Montreux Festival.

"I decided to give up playing the guitar," teased King, back on the road after a farewell European tour three years ago, to cries of "no!" from the crowd.

"I'm glad you said that 'cos I didn't mean it," said King, charming the Stravinski Auditorium by Switzerland's Lake Geneva with his old-style showmanship and gentlemanly wit.

Jazz singer Sweet Georgia Brown started the evening with a primordial holler from offstage that left the crowd, impatiently awaiting the arrival of King, wondering if a hurricane was about to blow.

Brown finally showed the audience her physical presence at the end of her opening "Let The Good Times Roll" before blasting them away for an hour with electric blues vocals delivered with the raw power of an Etta James and Janis Joplin in their prime.

The set culminated in a standing ovation for Brown -- rare for an opening act playing her first major European date.

The singer was plucked from relative obscurity after the Jazz Foundation invited festival organizer Claude Nobs and legendary bandleader Quincy Jones, who produced Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album, to hear Brown in one of the New York clubs she has been playing in a career spanning 59 years.

"It's like a dream come true for me," Brown told Reuters before she joined King and guitar legend George Benson, due to headline the festival on Monday, for an impromptu late-night jam session.   Continued...

<p>U.S. blues legend B.B. King performs during the 43rd Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux July 12, 2009. REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud</p>