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B.B. King Blues Band will let good times roll at Blackbird Bend Casino

B.B. King Blues Band will let good times roll at Blackbird Bend Casino

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B.B. King Blues Band

SIOUX CITY -- For many generations of music lovers, B.B. King was never simply "The King of the Blues."

Instead, Riley B. King, the Itta Bena, Mississippi-born son of sharecroppers, was often the only blues musician many people knew by name.

"B.B. was always bigger than the music," James "Boogaloo" Bolden explained. "B.B was the embodiment of the blues as well as its chief ambassador. He introduced the music all over the world."

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When King died in 2015 at the age of 89, some feared it would be "Partin' Time" for his music because "The Thrill Was Gone."

However, Bolden, a trumpeter with King's band for nearly 40 years, still wanted to "Let the Good Times Roll."

That's why he and other members of King's original band have regrouped without the maestro.

[More Blackbird Bend: Country legend T.G. Sheppard plays on the back of new solo album.]

"It was important to continue what B.B. started," Bolden said. "We are keeping his legacy alive."

The B.B. King Blues Band will be performing 8 p.m. Saturday at the Blackbird Bend Casino Event Center, 17214 210th St., Onawa, Iowa.

With a lineup of B.B. King "lifers" including bandleader Bolden, the assembled musicians have more than 100 years of experience. 

But the band also has a bit of a ringer in Michael Lee, a 2018 contestant from NBC's "The Voice," who plays lead guitar and provides lead vocal. 

According to Bolden, the band draws strength from the younger generation.

"B.B. literally had fans of all ages," Bolden said. "His music could go into concert halls or into blues clubs without missing a beat."

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Yet it was King's 1988 collaboration with U2 that truly opened the floodgates when it came to attracting a new fans.

Bolden said when U2 released "When Love Comes to Town" on their "Rattle and Hum" album, King's music began to resonate with kids who grew up on MTV.

"Suddenly, the blues stopped being sad music that old people liked," he said with a chuckle. "It became music that was alive and energetic and something you could dance to."

Plus King was ecstatic to see his music get a new lease on life.

"B.B. loved being on the road because he loved people," Bolden said. "It didn't matter your race, the color of your skin, or your walk of life, B.B. treated everyone the same way."

This allowed King to be accepted all over the world.

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"I'll never forget touring with B.B. in Asia," Bolden said. "The audiences probably didn't know much English, but they knew the lyrics to B.B.'s songs and they sang along to everything we played."

That's because, in King's mind, the blues wasn't just a genre of music. Instead, it was a lifestyle which was universal.

"B.B. thought everybody should have a bit of the blues in their lives," Bolden said.

It helped because King had a band which shared the same philosophy.

"I came to B.B.'s band after playing with Duke Ellington's big band," Bolden explained. "I figured I'd play with B.B. for a few years before moving onto something else."

"Before I knew it, a few years became a few decades," he continued with a laugh. "B.B.'s band became my family and B.B. treated me as one of his kids."

And when King died, he wanted his sound to live on.

"We are B.B's direct, musical descendants," Bolden said. "We want to keep the blues going for as long as we can."