Andrew Winistorfer, Classics A&R: I picked this one, and wrote the liner notes. It’s an interesting record, largely because it’s an ode to B.B. King’s guitar (named Lucille). He was one of the few guitarists, after the ’30s and ’40s blues artists, who really got famous for using a specific guitar. He used a Gibson Hollowbody, which eventually became its own line under Gibson as The Lucille.
This album starts with a 11-minute song where King’s telling this tall tale of how he ended up with Lucille: He was playing at a shed somewhere in Arkansas, and there was no heat in the winter. They had a bucket with rags and gas lit on fire to heat the building, and two guys started fighting near the stage, and tipped over the bucket. Because it’s a wood shed, the building caught fire immediately; B.B. King hopped off stage and ran out, but realized he left his guitar on stage, so he ran back in to grab it. The way he tells it, he grabbed the guitar, and the building fell around him, and he left. But what’s more likely is that he got his guitar and got out safely. He stood on the street, asked what happened, and someone told him these guys were fighting over a woman named Lucille. From that moment on, every guitar B.B. King owned was called Lucille.
This album was the one that came before B.B. King really blew up in the late ’60s with “The Thrill is Gone.” They hit on the right sound on Lucille that eventually made B.B. King into a blues and rock superstar. That’s one of the things that we love doing at VMP: finding that record that’s right before the boom. And this is one of them: a really interesting story — which drew me in to do this one, and write the liner notes — and a really interesting place in B.B.’s career for us to highlight.
Michael Penn II: So does this packaging look like the guitar, or?
AW: Like the guitar, it’s black (laughs). We always do the Classics on black vinyl; we want it to look as much like the original version as possible We’re always striving to make the highest-quality replica, or even better quality than the original in some cases. We do it on 180-gram vinyl, new liner notes, and tip-on jacket. And this one, like every release back to our Al Green reissue, is Triple-A vinyl: We took the analog tape, cut it to lacquer using analog materials at Sterling Sound, and then pressed it at QRP from that. There was never digital at all. It’s probably going to be the best version of this album that’s out.
MPII: So you didn’t have to go into the plant, and get these tapes out as the plant collapsed around you?
AW: No, but my writing shed… fell around me… as I finished the liner notes.
MPII: My Google Docs was hacked, and the only document left… was these liner notes!