We Only Met Twice
By Perry Terrell
The blues was in Jeffrey’s mind, body and soul. The blues consumed his parents as well.
Day in and day out, while he was growing up, the blues was playing constantly in their home.
They listened and danced to the music and sounds of Muddy Waters, B. B. King, Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker and Howlin’ Wolf, just to name a few.
His particular favorite was the all time blues great, B. B. King.
Jeffrey researched and read on the internet that B. B. was born September 16, 1925. Since he was born September 16, 1995, in his mind that made him a soul mate with his idol. His parents would not buy him a guitar because they wanted him to go to school and settle down in a stable job. They could not see him traveling all over playing music. They concluded that he would not have steady roots and they wanted grandchildren before they died or got too old to enjoy them.
While Jeffrey was in middle school, he was old enough for a paper route and would cut grass for the neighbors that had their own lawn mowers. He didn’t make a ton of money, but he was paid well enough to buy his own guitar. His uncle had a guitar but wouldn’t let Jeffrey play with it because he had won it in a raffle and wanted to keep it in pristine condition so he could sell it one day and hopefully get a lot of money for it.
Jeffrey saved most of the money he had worked for and by the time he was thirteen years old, he had saved enough money to buy himself a student guitar. It only cost $99.00 plus tax, and he had the cash ready for the purchase. He bought it as an early birthday present for himself in 2008. He had passed to the 9th grade by then and was ready to be a guitarist. School had just let out for the summer.
His parents found the guitar in his room where he was trying to hide it and they told him to take it back and get his money. They assured him that was a waste. He tried to tell them that it was a birthday present to himself, but they wouldn’t listen. He told them that he would take the guitar back the next morning.
Jeffrey got up before daybreak, packed a few clothes and his guitar and crawled out of his bedroom window. He had no intentions of taking his birthday present back and he had no intentions of going back to school in the fall.
Thanks to the internet, he knew exactly where B. B. could be found. He was playing at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee that summer.
He had enough money left from buying his guitar to purchase a one way ticket to that Arts Festival; and he caught the next Greyhound bus to see his idol and didn’t care if his parents missed him or not.
He did not know how to play the guitar yet, but he was sure he would learn.
He had saved and pinched his pennies pretty good and had enough money to buy food but not to pay for a place to stay. Actually, he did not think of where he would be staying because he was well rested from sleeping on the bus.
When he got off the bus in Manchester, he went straight to the Festival. A group of teenagers were going in the gate and he struck up a conversation with one of the boys and was invited to join them. They were a group from the local summer camp and did not really realize that Jeffrey was not a camp member. They were just impressed that he was walking around with a guitar.
Jeffrey and his new friend headed straight for the stage B. B. was playing on and they had a great time. He further sealed his friendship with his friend by buying him some food and they stayed together throughout the Festival.
After making their way to the stage and when one of the musicians saw Jeffrey with his guitar, he invited him to step up and play. Jeffrey told him that he could not play his guitar yet, but he was looking forward to someone teaching him. He told him of his background of listening to the blues and that his idol was B. B. King.
The musician was also a music teacher in Manchester, Tennessee and would sit in with bands at the Festivals and local night clubs and play to earn extra money. His name was Josh and he still lived with his mother.
During the break, Jeffrey, Josh and Jeffrey’s new friend, Caleb sat down on the edge of the stage and Jeffrey told them that he had run away from home because he wanted to be a blues musician like his idol. Professor Josh was impressed with his bold adventure and invited him to stay with him and his mother because they lived in a big house and had the room. Plus, he did not want to hear of anything bad happening to a 13 year old.
Jeffrey got a chance to meet B. B. and tell him about how he was his idol.
After the Festival ended and Josh introduced him to his mother with the background story, she agreed to let him stay providing that she did not have to take care of him.
Josh knew how to play several instruments and the guitar was one of them. He immediately started teaching Jeffrey and Jeffrey was learning at rapid speed. Also, they got along like brothers which made Josh’s mom more receptive.
By the end of the summer, Jeffrey’s parents had found him and tried to make him come back home. He refused, so they left him there. He could not leave anyway because he was playing the guitar good enough that he was sitting in with local bands with Josh, playing the blues and making his own money. He was playing B. B. King songs almost as good as he was because he practiced day and night and night and day, as well as, studying his style of soloing based on fluid string bending and shimmering vibrato. Josh was a great teacher and so was B. B.
Needless to say, Josh was very proud of his determination and dedication. He told Jeffrey that he had been waiting all of his teaching career for a student like him.
Since he didn’t really have to pay rent, even though he would help Josh’s mom out with a few dollars here and there, he had enough money saved to see B. B. one more time at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in Bridgeview, Illinois on June 26, 2010. Josh went with him and they actually stayed in an inexpensive motel where they had made reservations before leaving home. That was a few months before Jeffrey’s 15th birthday. B. B. remembered him and Josh and they were both well received.
Jeffrey stayed with Josh and his mom and went to school and finished. When he graduated high school, he felt he was good enough to locate his idol and audition for him and ask for a position in his band. He worked playing music for a couple of years after high school; and by the time he was 20 years old going on 21, he was headed to Las Vegas, Nevada. Before he got there that summer, his idol passed away on May 14, 2015 and he never had the privilege to meet B. B. King in person again. But to this day, he is still playing B. B. King blues songs.