Ithaca, N.Y. — Riley B. King, the legendary blues guitarist known to the world as B.B. King, died Thursday night at the age of 89.


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King played remarkably late into his career and performed at the State Theatre in Ithaca just last year in a show on April 11, 2014.

BB King at the State Theatre (photos courtesy of the theater):

Concert promoter Dan Smalls booked that show; we asked him to write something short about it.

Here’s what he said in an email:

“It was an honor to finally host BB on what turned out to be his last tour. Despite his growing age and onset of old age and its complexities, he invigorated the sold out house at the State.

“His band and better yet his whole organization and entourage was top notch, full of family and seasoned pros. “

Smalls continued: “As someone who learned much about the blues early on in my days at the Haunt in the late 80’s – early 90’s BB was the guy everyone talked about.”

“From Buddy guy and Albert Collins to Stevie Ray to an 11 year old Joe Bonamassa, they all put him on that pedestal where only he belonged.”

“Sure it started in the Deep South but as the blues moved north he was the one who helped bring it to the masses and had the first real commercial success. It was his honesty and integrity that mattered.”

“He will be missed. And I’m honored to have shook his hand and had a few small words with a true legend. He may be gone but the thrill will never be!”

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.