B.B. King’s sweet blues with Switzerland

GENEVA, Switzerland – The blues is blue this week with the passing on 14 May of one of its legends: the great B.B. King, who also happened to have performed in Switzerland more than 20 times in a 33-year span.

The Blues may have originated in the deep south of the United States, but for over three decades it has had a home in the Swiss Riviera, namely at the Montreux Jazz Festival.

The late Mississippi native played 19 times at what is arguably, the most popular jazz festival in the world. His first show took place on 8 July 1979, almost 36 years to date, at the now extinct Montreux Casino.

The first song he ever played in Switzerland, was an epic 7-minute blues, Sawdust Alley which made reference to a poor Houston neighborhood where King’s orchestra director, Calvin Owens lived.

King’s last spirited performance in Montreux took place on 3 July 2011, when he played along Carlos Santana and other great guitarists. (See a collection of photos here.)

B.B. King and MJF Founder, Claude Nobs also had a great friendship (see Nob’s photo archives.) King gifted one of his beloved, Lucilles, to Nobs who kept it at his chalet. It is still there today.

The great B.B. King also played at other Swiss venues including a free performance at the Lugano Estival Jazz in 1990.

The Maestro’s last performance in Switzerland took place on 11 July 2012, at age 89, as the opening act of the Live at Sunset festival in Zurich.

“The Thrill is Gone…
And now that it’s all over
All I can do is wish you well.

B.B. King, Live at Montreux 1993

Feature photo, courtesy of the ©MJFF / Lionel Flusi.

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