Gainesville Community Reacts To The Loss Of A King

B.B. King has played at the Cotton Club in Gainesville. Courtesy of Bert Burt Wetherington.
B.B. King’s legend lives on in Gainesville. King has played at the Cotton Club and the Phillips Center. Courtesy of Burt Wetherington.

Blues legend B.B. King died Thursday at the age of 89, but the memory of him will not be lost by members of the community.

Michael Blachly remembers the interaction between King and another legend from the jazz and blues era backstage at a show.

Bo Diddley and B.B. King shared stories, their history and even exchanged guitar licks.

Blachly, director of the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, has worked with B.B. King numerous times in the past including King’s most recent performance in 2000 at the Phillips Center.

Blachly remembers King managing his concerts in an extremely professional manner.

“He didn’t short-change the audience. He didn’t cut corners,” Blachly said. “He just gave a full and rich show and gave everything he could.”

Vivian Filer, chair of the board of directors of the Cotton Club Museum and Cultural Center, said she had a strong feeling of emptiness when she heard about his death.

“He was such an idol and such a pioneer. The thought of him being gone is pretty heartbreaking.”

King performed at the Cotton Club in the late ‘40s to early ‘50s.  The Cotton Club was part of the chitlin’ circuit, a collection of venues that were considered safe for African Americans to share their music and talent with the community.

King’s type of music set the pace for a lot of musicians following him, according to Filer.

“He brought the real blues that people loved.”

King showed the community how music and the arts are a valuable bridge to one another.

“His music is a link worldwide,” Blachly said. “Music is a common language and he believed very strongly in the gift that music was and what he could give as a result of his playing.”

About Raymond Brown

Raymond is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news

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