My return home was pretty quiet and without any of the fanfare or events to which I'd grown accustomed, but it was very nice to reunite with family, friends and loved ones once again. Then I got a call from none other than V.S. 'Sonny' Freeman on behalf of B.B. King to come join their unit as soon as possible, an association that'd last for seven incredible years.

As excited as I was to accept this new gig, I was soon nervous and insecure of my ability to keep it. My Uncle Phil told me that they wouldn't have asked me if they didn't feel I was truly qualified. And after all, back in high school, I'd played a few times with the greatest guitar player who ever lived according to my Uncle Phil -- meaning Chuck Berry -- because he could duckwalk and play simultaneously. Uncle Phil told me I was good enough to play with anybody, even though I didn't dance so good. He was a fabulous dancer/tough guy in his day. My first night with Mr. King was at Syracuse University and I received a very sweet taste of higher education after the show from a very attractive lady professor. I even had my name mentioned in Billboard for the first time; this was gonna be good!

There was no song list, no calling out keys or counting tempos, no rehearsal, no nothing, barely a meet and greet. Just play and try to fit in. In other words, fake it. Now THAT was something I could do! The night went on well, to my surprise, but it was not easy. B.B.'s personnel were more sophisticated in a jazzy swinging sense, both musically and personally. They also played in a bunch of keys I'd never really played in before. Once, when I played a particularly good solo on some tune, the trumpet player and my new roommate (and soon to become close friend) John Browning would mumble in a low Miles Davis slur, "Man, you sho' sounded good on that tune. That must be your pet key." John frequently would lament to me, "The more I teach you, the dumber I get." His other favorites were, "Let me pull your coat to something (give advice). You'll never make it out of this life alive, son" and "If I could sing, I'd be a muthertrucker." John aka Tootie would also declare "Get off the stove, grandma, you're too old to ride the range!" These guys were all savory, seasoned, sometimes cynical vets who lived a life filled with irony. They were old pros who'd been out there for years and years, some since the early 1950s, when I was born. B.B. first introduced me as Rown Leevee as opposed to Levy which rhymes with Chevy (in Japan they called me Lon Rebbe). It took me awhile before I built up enough nerve to correct him, almost two years. One of our first concerts in Boston was at the Harvard Coliseum football field. Practically all my family and school friends were there to cheer me on. They were all perplexed, however, that after almost two years B.B. was still mispronouncing my name. I rectified that soon after.

"TALES of a ROAD DOG" - 'The Lowdown Along the Blues Highway' by Ron Levy
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