I was saddened to read of the recent passing of B.B. King. It brought back fond memories of seeing him perform live while I was deployed with the Air Force at Taszar Air Base in Hungary in 1996. We were living in rustic conditions in large canvass and plywood military tents and working long hours, sustaining airlift ops in support of Operation Joint Endeavor.
The legendary guitarist flew in on an Air Force C-130 cargo aircraft on a USO-sponsored tour. He was accompanied by his seven-man band and his trusty guitar “Lucille.”
An article in the Stars and Stripes expressed his thoughts on his visit. “I like to meet people and make them happy.”
A plywood stage was constructed in an open field at nearby Kaposujlak Air Field to host the show. A tent was set up behind the stage to serve as a dressing room. Pretty austere digs by any standards. Not like his other performances at the White House or the New Orleans Jazz Festival.
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King reportedly performed more than 15,000 shows during his more than 64-year career. None was more appreciated than this performance under the stars in front an ever-enthusiastic crowd of fatigued and homesick GIs. Perfect for singing the blues.
His 1969 hit song pretty well sums up our loss: “The Thrill Is Gone.”