POSTED Wed. May 20, 2015

Creative Culture

On B.B. King, the Blues and New Orleans
Adam Karlin
Written by ADAM KARLIN

Like many of you, I was gutted when I heard the news of B.B. King’s death. King was a musician who came into his popularity when he was already middle-aged, and by the time I was old enough to appreciate him, the man was eligible for an AARP card.

Thus, his great age didn’t inspire fears for his mortality, because from where I sat, he was always something of a jolly grandfather of roots music, a man with gray hair who played like he was embracing his first gig. Here’s King at Jazz Fest in 2013, and he isn’t missing a beat or a note. His presence seemed immortal.

Sadly, as we discovered last week, B.B. was all too mortal. King’s death was a reminder that the seeming timelessness of roots music is a torch borne by many musicians who are entering their twilight years. While a younger generation seeks to learn and improve upon their art, the sad truth is the standard bearers of our most traditional sounds are often old, and getting older.

This is part of why I’m grateful for New Orleans. There is no comparable city for connecting to the origins of the modern sonic environment. Plus, there’s a particularly large amount of youth who embrace roots sounds in this city; I saw this at the Music Box, where genres like zydeco and jazz were blended with a John Cage-esque experimental soundscape.

With that said, if we’re paying tribute to B.B. King , we should acknowledge that one area of roots music which evolved independently of New Orleans is the blues. That’s not to say New Orleans lacks famous blues players – I challenge you to listen to Snooks Eaglin without feeling a shiver up your spine – but the blues has never been as crucial to our musical identity as jazz or brass.

The blues grew with cotton out of the Mississippi Delta. It has the African rhythms this city preserved via Congo Square, but they are rough hewn, more raw and given over to the call and response of the field hand. The blues, even after they migrated and urbanized in Memphis and Chicago, were always a music of the Earth; jazz and brass, which came together in a cosmopolitan port, was music of the Waters, of river currents and sea captains and immigration.

And yet. Both music forms trace deep ancestry all the way to Africa, and in this sense, B.B. King and the music he helped create and popularize was connected to New Orleans. The South is a land of roots, and if B.B. was a brilliant branch on the region’s musical tree, the seed of his expression grows from the same river-bound soil New Orleans is attached to. You can feel the connection in this duet between King and New Orleans soul queen Irma Thomas, from 1993, courtesy of WWOZ.

If you’d like to learn more about B.B. King and live in the area, keep in mind the wonderful B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretative Center is about 4.5 hours away in King’s hometown of Indianola, MS. The museum isn’t just a tribute to King – it’s a fascinating exploration of the delta and the blues that region created, and it’s well worth heading here, and to nearby Clarksdale, if you’d like to learn more about the deep history that lays behind regional Southern, and by extension, American, music.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

POSTED Jul 18, 2019

Creative Culture

August in New Orleans

August in New Orleans

New Orleans may be known as a party town, but locals work as hard here as they do in any city. Take a break from the routine with…....

Written by CREE MCCREE
POSTED Dec 14, 2018


Breaking Down the Best New Orleans & Louisiana Holiday Music

Breaking Down the Best New Orleans & Louisiana Holiday Music

Hey, the weather outside is kind of frightful! About as frightful as it gets down here anyways (also, note that next week temperatures will be back in the…....

Written by ADAM KARLIN
POSTED May 10, 2017

Creative Culture

Carnival Redux at the New Orleans Museum of Art

Carnival Redux at the New Orleans Museum of Art

On May 12 the New Orleans Museum of Art will fling open its doors for Masquerade: Late Night at NOMA, a costume party replete with float builders, mask-makers,…....

POSTED Dec 23, 2016


Some Holiday Music for the Weekend

Some Holiday Music for the Weekend

Happy holidays, y’all. We hope you find plenty to occupy you during this busy Christmas weekend, but if you find yourself having a small, quiet moment, or just…....

Written by ADAM KARLIN

    Our Local Publisher Partners

    • The Arts Council of New Orleans
    • WWNO
    • WWOZ
    • PRC
    • NOMA
    • The Historic New Orleans Collection
    • Southern Food
    • Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities
    The Arts Council of New Orleans

    The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.


    WWNO, the NPR member station for New Orleans, serves southeast Louisiana and parts of southwest Mississippi by broadcasting balanced news, thought provoking analysis, classical music, jazz and other musical styles, intelligent entertainment, and unique local content. We broadcast on 89.9 FM, and KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area as a public service of the University of New Orleans. All of WWNO’s programs, including its growing local news coverage, are available online at


    WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.


    Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.


    As a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, NOMA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and enriching its collections and renowned sculpture garden; offering innovative experiences for learning and interpretation; and uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures.

    The Historic New Orleans Collection

    The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

    Southern Food

    The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

    Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.



    was added to your favorites.



    Share On Twitter Share On Facebook