INDIANOLA, Miss. (AP) — A crescent moon hung over the Mississippi Delta as a legendary bluesman crept onto the stage. He sat in a folding chair, grabbed a guitar, and introduced each member of his band. Then, as if it was needed, he introduced himself.
"I guess you can look at me and tell I’m the old man. My name is B.B. King."
At 86, King may be grayer and slower than he used to be, but there’s no questioning his ability to please fans. King performed for about an hour Wednesday night on an outdoor stage at the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola, built on the site of a cotton gin where he worked as teenager while growing up in the impoverished delta.
King was born in Leflore County but spent time in several cities, including Indianola, Kilmichael and Lexington. He was honored earlier this week in Kilmichael with a marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail, which memorializes and markets Mississippi as the birthplace of the blues.
The 32nd annual B.B. King Homecoming was Indianola’s turn to celebrate. The crowd was young and old, from as far Britain, or from just down the street.
"This is one chance in a lifetime," said Luke Woodcock of Bristol, England, who ended up at the show almost by chance as he was touring the United States with a friend, Barney Ware of Cheltenham, England. The 25-year-old friends were in Clarksdale this week when they heard King was performing the next night.
"This whole trip has been about a year in the making," Ware said. "This is the best thing."
Before taking stage, King took time to connect with his younger fans. He brought the W.A. Higgins Rock Ensemble from Clarksdale, a group of children ages 11 to 14, aboard his tour bus for a private meeting.
"It was, oh my God, like the best thing that ever happened to me," 13-year-old Brittney Marshall said. "I really am speechless."
The setting was intimate. He sat close to the edge of a stage on a grass lawn outside the museum. There were no fixed seats and a crowd stood just inches from the star as he plucked off some tunes. He asked the crowd to sing along with him at times, saying "this one is for the ladies" before playing "Do You Know You Are My Sunshine."
"I didn’t see you shake your booty one time," King teased a fan.
King closed with one of his anthems, "The Thrill is Gone."
For his fans on a hot night in the Mississippi Delta, the thrill was back.
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B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center: http://www.bbkingmuseum.org/
Mississippi Blues Trail: http://msbluestrail.org/