Congo Square 2016
The Thrill’s On: A Portrait of B.B. King
by George Hunt
B.B. King began playing on Sonny Boy Williamson's radio program in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1948. The antenna on the horizon marks that start. This led to his own show on Memphis, Tennessee’s WDIA as a singer and disc jockey, acquiring the nickname "Beale Street Blues Boy", later shortened to "Blues Boy," then Bee-Bee and ultimately B.B. The hand-painted tube amp King used to promote himself depicts that modest start. Hunt’s portrait subtly captures the emotional highlights of King’s musical voyage. The artist’s palette echoes the colors King coaxed from his beloved guitar, Lucille, King’s constant companion in creating his brand of blues. King’s road passes Club Ebony, a vital “chitlin circuit” nightclub and another constant in his life. Opened in 1948 in Indianola, Mississippi, the club showcased every legendary black act of the era, including B.B. His 1957 Flexible Starliner Tour Bus dashing towards us represents his peripatetic life. The road sign points to Jazz Fest—where he filled the pictured Blues Tent in the crescent of the Mississippi River and other Festival venues a dazzling 34 times from 1972 to 2013—and to Beale Street, where he founded his record company, Blues Boys Kingdom, in 1956 and opened the original B.B. King's Blues Club in 1991.
George Hunt traveled a road parallel to King's, emerging as a different type of Memphis bluesman. While B.B. moved to Memphis for radio, Louisiana-born Hunt went searching for subjects to paint, with equivalent success: In 1996 Hunt was commissioned to paint 26 portraits for Blue & Legends Hall of Fame Museum in Robinsonville, Mississippi—still on view at Gateway to the Blues Museum. He was designated the official artist for the “Year of the Blues,” proclaimed by Congress in 2003. While considered America's foremost pictorial blues artist, Hunt’s work covers the full range of the Southern black experience. Hunt proves that the soul of blues can enchant the eye as much as the ear. B.B.’s intensely soulful musicality is tangible in the expression Hunt captures on King’s face. B.B.’s depicted body language summons the deep yet seemingly effortless immersion that suffuses King’s work. With deceptively simple gestures paralleling King’s own, Hunt clarifies the soaring emotional connection King’s music still makes with each of us.
1,000 Artist-signed & numbered prints on 100% rag paper, 21" x 31"
350 Artist signed and pencil remarqued by Hunt and bearing the estate stamp of B. B. King, numbered Remarque prints on 100% rag paper, 22" x 34"
100 Artist-overpainted, signed by the artist and estate stamped & numbered C-Marque canvas screen prints, 24" x 39" (unstretched size)
Poster originally sold for $69 (Unsigned), $239 (Signed), $435 (Re-Marque), $695 (C-Marque)
Poster specifications & digital image may vary slightly from actual print.
Image ©2016 art4now, Inc. / Text ©2016 ProCreations Publishing Company