B.B. King’s band are set to start touring again, with old friend Jesse Robinson in their late leader’s place.
King died in May 2015 at the age of 89, leading to the cancellation of his musicians’ immediate plans.
They’ll make their first appearance with Robinson at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival this weekend, with guest appearances from Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt, Elvin Bishop, Dr John and others.
Tour manager Myron Johnson tells the Clarion Ledger: “When B.B. passed, of course, the band stopped playing. I decided to bring the guys back together because they wanted to continue, so that’s what we’re doing.
“We needed a bluesman, someone that could carry the torch and do the show in B.B.’s stead. I quite naturally thought of Jesse – it’s just a natural fit.”
Robinson, 71, says: “I was very surprised that they would call me. There are so many people on the face of God’s earth that admired B.B. and play his music.”
He became friends with King many years ago, when the pair bonded over their Mississippi Delta upbringing. “B.B. and I always talked about that,” he says. “I think they were trying to find somebody from the Delta, and I think I’m probably the last one left from that era. That’s kind of scary.”
Johnson has confirmed that a tour is in the process of being booked, with the intention of playing as often as King did until the months before his death.
Robinson says: “They’re keeping his legacy going. We’re going to be doing B.B.’s show all over again.”
King’s lineup recently consisted of guitarist Charlie Dennis, keyboardist Ernest Van Trese, bassist Reggie Richards plus brass players Walter King, Melvin Jackson, Stanley Abernathy and James Bolden.