May 16th, 2015

BB: The King is gone, long live the King

by Mort Walker


We cartoonists are very lucky in that we get to do something that we genuinely love. Many late nights, bending over the drawing board, we sometimes wonder if it’s worth it. Is this little piece of board (or, these days, a computer screen and electronic file), ever going to be seen, read and appreciated by anyone? We scribble our lines and just hope that it brightens someone’s day.

Until we get a response: an email, a post online, an actual letter, or just a comment from someone in passing, we can’t be sure if we’re reaching our audience. Then something happens that surprises and amazes.

As a guitarist myself, I listen to, and marvel at, those who master the instrument. I envy those who have the talent to make those strings sing, even though I’ve had guitarists tell me “you do your thing, I do mine… I wish I could draw.”

When I heard B.B. King was coming to town several years ago, it seemed like it might be a good chance to catch a concert and get a book that I owned signed by the legend (the B B King Treasury). I went to the theater and gave the book to the stage manager and asked if he could possibly get it to Mr. King. He promised nothing. To sweeten the deal, I drew a picture of Beetle and inscribed it “from one BB to another”, hoping that might encourage him to sign.

After an amazing concert, I went backstage and, incredibly, soon found myself on B.B.’s touring bus. As I sat down in his private compartment and he offered to sign a picture, I noticed the envelope with the drawing off to the side of the table. I said, “I see you got my drawing.” Mr. King replied, “You did that, you’re pretty good.” I answered, “Well, that’s what I do.” The Great One gushed, “You do?! I’m a big fan!” Wait, seriously, did the blues legend just said he’s MY fan?! He reached across and grabbed my hand and pulled me over next to him. My friend jumped up on the bench seat and took this picture. As you can maybe tell, I was completely awestruck.

I guess, at times, musicians on the road get bored and pick up a newspaper and read the comics. Meeting Mr. King was one of my most treasured moments.

Sometimes this cartooning gig can get really interesting.

As you have probably heard by now, B.B. left us after many decades of prompting us to tap our feet to his distinctive music. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had him touch my life in several ways.




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