May 28, 2015

B. B. King's Last Time on Beale Street and the Naked Man in The River

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Yesterday, B. B. King known as "Beale Street Blues Boy," made his last appearance on Beale Street in Memphis. It was a sight to behold. Prior to his limo ride down Beale, the dignitaries of Memphis had kind words to say about the blues showman. I think B.B. might have been embarrassed by all the accolades because he was an unassuming brilliant musician who was in "it" for the music. 
It was an all-day event on Beale, unlike anything I can remember in the past. It seemed fitting that a thunderstorm blew through the city during the blues concert at Handy Park on Beale. The rain seemed to set the tone for B. B.'s funeral procession. The rain stopped as mourners lined Beale Street and shouted "B. B." as the hearse passed. The black coffin-laden hearse with flashing grill lights proceeded slowly down Beale. Members of the “Beale Street Procession Band” playing, "When the Saints Go Marching In," proceeded the hearse.  Rodd Bland, son of the late blues singer Bobby “Blue” Bland, carried B.B.'s "Lucille," Gibson guitar and led the Dixieland jazzy-blues funeral processional.  
While B. B.'s Beale street funeral sendoff was happening a naked man decided to take a swim in the Mississippi River. This is never a good idea. This required police to be diverted to boat patrol to try and rescue the "naked man in the river." The man had actually been swept down river from the foot of Beale Street to the old bridge in record time. This man was in serious trouble but was refusing help to be dragged into the safety of a boat. This all played out while WMC Action News Chopper 5 shot video. They were flying to cover B.B.'s Beale Street processional but "the man in the river" took precedence. 
Somehow I think B. B. King would have liked the diversion. While everyone sang "The Thrill is Gone" when hearing of King's passing, I think the naked man in the frigid Mississippi River would be singing, "How Blue Can You Get."
Writers are you confused? I have a point, I promise. These two events are out of the ordinary and would make great scenes in a book. They are unique and unusual. Take heart, you don't have to live in Memphis to come across unusual stories. Each and every community has unique stories begging to be told. You may be just the person to tell them. You can certainly turn a "real" story into a fictional story and let one event spin into a book with you as the author.
After the events of yesterday, I think B. B. King sang it best in my favorite of his songs, "Let The Good Times Roll."

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