Q&A with James ‘Boogaloo’ Bolden of The B.B. King Blues Band - King’s music will never be forgotten

"We miss the legends and the pioneers of Blues music. Nowadays there are so many Blues sub categories, but it’s ok because pioneers like B.B. King have built a strong foundation that Blues will remain one of the best genres of music for centuries to come."

James ‘Boogaloo’ Bolden:

The Soul of the King - Long live The King

Four years after the passing of the great B.B. King, his towering influence over the blues world, and beyond, remains undimmed. King’s music will never be forgotten, and this year, the iconic bluesman’s presence is felt stronger than ever, as his spirit imbues a star-studded new album by The B.B. King Blues Band, "The Soul of the King" on Ruf Records (2019). The first single from the album, "Irene" features guests artists Russell Jackson and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Bandleader James ‘Boogaloo’ Bolden says, “’Irene Irene’ is a song about strong emotions that become complicated and indecisive. Thanks Kenny Wayne Shepherd for your outstanding guitar work.” In addition to Shepherd, The Soul of the King also features Taj Mahal, Joe Louis Walker, Michael Lee and Kenny Neal. Recorded at Hollywood’s Paramount Studios and Houston’s Lucky Run Studios, The Soul Of The King finds The B.B. King Blues Band writing ten of the thirteen tracks that stand alongside their late leader’s catalog.

The members of The B.B. King Blues Band are all lifers, some of the members clocking in at 35 years. Not only did they support King, but they would start each show by performing onstage before B.B. came out. After King passed, the band was naturally at a loss until they started playing some festivals and eventually got their footing back. The current lineup includes: Michael Lee (Lead Vocals. Lead Guitar), James “Boogaloo” Bolden (Trumpet), Russell Jackson (Bass and Vocals), Herman Jackson (Drums), Eric Demmer (Saxophone), Wilbert Crosby (Guitar and Vocals), Lamar Boulet (Trumpet), Darrell Lavigne (Keyboards), and Walter King (Saxophone). The Soul Of The King reminds us that The B.B. King Blues Band are a line-up moving forward, writing a love-letter to their fallen leader while staking their own claim in the modern era. Bandleader James ‘Boogaloo’ Bolden talks about the Blues and the late great bluesman BB King.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the Blues people and culture? What does the blues mean to you?

Blues music sprouted up from the deepest roots of America which evolved to shape the Blues culture as we see today through artists just like B.B. King. Weathering all the hard times through his stories of struggle and poverty his family had gone through over decades has taught us all to be resilient and has given us a clear sense of who we are and the freedom to express that identity through Blues music.

What were the reasons that started the BB King Blues Band? What touched (emotionally) you from BB King's music?

We wanted to preserve BB King’s legacy and to showcase his music as authentically as possible. There are so many artists he inspired from Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy and even Bono. The list of artists and stories are endless. We want to keep the Blues alive because of what it is and where it came from. It’s very important historically to carry this on for people. We always need to remember where the Blues came from and what it was built from.

It was always deeply emotionally to physically see in the moments how BB’s music transformed and inspired so many people of different races and cultures. The way he expresses the emotions of his heart in his playing and singing and how we could physically.

"Music production today covers up the true authentic nature of the artists with all the rabid digital technology. It takes the human quality out of the music. I think people long for truth in music so it can reach deep in your heart and transform your emotions during a performance. You can’t sink deep enough into the music when it’s all electronic." (Photo: The BB King Blues Band)

What was the best advice B.B. ever gave you? Are there any memories from the road which you’d like to share with us?

Boogaloo: “B.B. and I were always discussing the future of his blues music and how we were going to continue his legacy. B.B. encouraged us to do our own cd’s with The BB King Blues Band and to press on. So here we are keeping his music alive.”

Russell (Jackson): “I was young when I was playing with B.B. so it was more of a father/son relationship. B.B. was always pulling me aside and saying encouraging things because that’s how it was between us. He felt responsible for me and was always talking to me about life in general.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

We miss the legends and the pioneers of Blues music. Nowadays there are so many Blues sub categories, but it’s ok because pioneers like B.B. King have built a strong foundation that Blues will remain one of the best genres of music for centuries to come. There is no fear in losing the future of Blues music as long as the heritage lives on in the hearts and minds of the people.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Music production today covers up the true authentic nature of the artists with all the rabid digital technology. It takes the human quality out of the music. I think people long for truth in music so it can reach deep in your heart and transform your emotions during a performance. You can’t sink deep enough into the music when it’s all electronic.

Do you consider the Blues a specific music genre and artistic movement or do you think it’s a state of mind?

In the beginning the Blues originated from the 19th century hardships, struggle and poverty in the south, but today Blues has evolved from that “hardship” state of mind to more of an artistic movement that deals with that particular state of mind and heart.

“B.B. and I were always discussing the future of his blues music and how we were going to continue his legacy. B.B. encouraged us to do our own cd’s with The BB King Blues Band and to press on. So here we are keeping his music alive.” (Photo: James ‘Boogaloo’ Bolden)

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your paths with B.B. King?

We learned how to express ourselves authentically through B.B. King’s music. B.B. helped us understand the power that Blues music has on people to transform them in the moment and remember where their heritage came from.

The BB King Blues Band - Home

The B.B. King Blues Band Featuring "The Voice" Michael Lee - 2019 Tour Itinerary

May 23 (Thur.)  ROCK AND BLUES AT SAN MANUEL                   Highland, CA

May 24 (Fri.)     SYCUAN CASINO RESORT                            El Cajon, CA

May 31 (Fri.)     ARCADA THEATER                                      St. Charles, IL

June 1 (Sat.)      FLETCHER PARK                                         Indianola, MS

June 9 (Sun.)     LEVITT PAVILION                                       Arlington, TX

June 29 (Sat.)    ALAMEDA COUNTY FAIR                            Alameda, CA

June 30 (Sun.)   SAN MANUAEL CASINO                              Highland, CA

July 13 (Sat.)     WOODSTOCK SUMMER CONCERT SERIES    Woodstock, GA

Aug. 10 (Sat.)   RICHMOND JAZZ FESTIVAL                         Richmond, VA

Aug. 11 (Sun.)  HARTWOOD ACRES PARK                           Allison Park PA

Aug. 15 (Thur.) FLAGSTAR STRAND THEATER                        Pontiac, MI

Aug. 25 (Sun.)  BEAVER DAM AMPHITHEATER                     Beaver Dam KY

Aug. 30 (Fri.)    THE VENUE                                                Aurora, IL

Aug. 31 (Sat.)   FISHERS BLUES FESTIVAL                            Fishers, IN

Sept. 1 (Sun.)   MINNESOTA STATE FAIR                             St. Paul, MN

Sept. 2 (Mon.)  MINNESOTA STATE FAIR                             St. Paul, MN

Oct. 19 (Sat.)   BLACKBIRD BEND CASINO                           Onawa, IA

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