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From the archives: Legendary blues guitarist B.B. King plays Massey Hall

Legendary blues guitarist and singer B.B. King and Lucille (his treasured Gibson guitar) perform at Massey Hall on Oct. 10, 2013.

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A marquee attraction since 1949, when his cover of Lowell Fulsom’s Three O’Clock Blues sold more than one-million copies and stayed on the American R&B chart for 18 weeks, B.B. King’s iconic initials stand for “Blues Boy.”

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A sold-out Massey Hall in Toronto was filled to the rafters for the world’s most recognizable blues artist and his signature, semi-hollow Gibson ES-355, a variant of his original Lucille.

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A left-hand vibrato like no other.

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Rock Me Baby was a jaunty shuffle, with King’s bristly toned chord fills and riffs filling the spaces left open by his eight-piece band. A sing-along version of You Are My Sunshine followed.

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Fans had waited outside the hall for autographs, hoping for the charismatic Mississippian to sign items such as this British import LP, Lucille Had a Baby.

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Known for his stage banter, King was his usual grandfatherly self at Massey. At one point he mentioned a Ford Model-A and then wondered aloud if anyone in the audience knew the reference. He is 88 years old.

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“Take it way down,” he told his band, “like you’re stealing something.” The Thrill is Gone, the haunting crossover hit from 1969, was followed by Sweet Sixteen, from a decade earlier.

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King spotted a fan in the front row with an acoustic guitar. “I thought I had competition,” he joked. But he had no rivals. Later he would autograph the guitar.

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“I ain’t tired,” he protested. “I wish I could go on.” King’s performance was charismatic, but erratic and short.

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King talked as much as he sang or played his instrument. Some of the skill is gone.

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After an up-tempo reworking of When Love Comes to Town and the finale When the Saints Go Marching In, King departed to his tour bus. Next stop: Kitchener, Ont. – have guitar will travel.

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