BB King Was Afraid To Play At Sing Sing Prison But Called It His Best Performance Ever

BB King was scared to set foot in Sing Sing prison to play for the inmates, but later said it was the best performance of his life. Documentary maker David Hoffman filmed the historic performance in the maximum security prison and uploaded it on YouTube. One of the highlights of the Thanksgiving show was King performing his live staple “How Blue Can You Get.” The blues icon opens the show with a bit of banter with the inmates, showing he had some real comedy chops as well as guitar chops.

King then launches into “How Blue Can You Get,” opening with his incomparable lead guitar playing. There’s absolutely nothing like a B.B. King solo, as the Mississippi bluesman’s tone and feel are unmatched. After the opening solo, the band drops in and King takes the lead vocal, and oh my, what soul and passion he brings to the performance. The inmates are loving it and show it by clapping, grooving along, and laughing at the gags during the song.

King gave the performance on Thanksgiving in 1972, at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York. While talking to NPR, the guitarist explained his reticence to play the prison, saying “I’ve played a lot of prisons since but Sing Sing is the only one that I can remember the name of and the reason is because I was scared. I thought it was the end of my life.”

Hoffman, who shot a full-length documentary about the appearance, said that the experience was an emotionally charged one for King. However, the show was a hit, with the inmates showing great appreciation for King’s work. “His fears were alleviated, and the event left a lasting impression on him,” Hoffman said. “King considered it was absolutely his best performance up until that time.” Another great cut from the Sing Sing show is “Outside Help.”

King’s version of “How Blue Can You Get” attracted 22.7 million views on YouTube, making it one of the bluesman’s most popular performances on the platform.

Fans online were mighty impressed with what King was putting out on the night, and added comments such as “Words cannot describe what it is these old blues men have. Their attitude blended with life experience plus music. Just imagine if we didn’t have any of these guys” and “To see an audience of tough inmates react with the joy of giddy school kids was incredible. It’s like the truth of the blues flowed out of BB in its purest form, and finally somebody briefly understood them.”

If you would like to hear more from this talented blues icon you can subscribe to his [YouTube Channel]( or follow him on [Instagram]( for more incredible music.

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