Ocean City -- It's a pretty big show for a small town -- and Ocean City's officials are delighted that B.B. King, Dr. John, Little Feat and a musical tribute to Muddy Waters coming to the Convention Center Aug. 17.
"Pre-ticket sales are going pretty well," says Buck Mann, who heads the town's Tourism Committee, which reviews all events put on by Ocean City.
Careful planning and aggressive booking by Ocean City is what brings big names to town, he explains.
"Our problem with any of these concerts is, we have to get them in transit from one big gig to another," Mr. Mann says. "We only seat 3,100 [in the Convention Center]. That doesn't fit with our dollars -- we'd have to charge $50 a ticket and that wouldn't go down here."
So the town looks for artists in transit -- from Philadelphia to Richmond, say. Ocean City is on the way, and it's a good one-nighter between two larger stops, Mr. Mann says. But it all fell together for the blues concert planned for Wednesday, August 17, Mr. Mann says.
On the bill is B.B. King, Dr. John, Little Feat and a group of musicians who will perform their "Tribute to Muddy Waters."
B.B King, born in 1925 in Itta Bene, Miss., began his career as a bluesman playing on the street for dimes, later playing as many as four towns on a Saturday night. Then he decided to strike out for the big time, and headed to Memphis with his guitar and less than three dollars in his pocket.
Then in 1948, he performed on Sonny Boy Williamson's program on radio station KWEM in west Memphis. That exposure brought him steady engagements at the Sixteenth Avenue Grill, and other radio engagements. The musician, whose real name is Riley B. King, took several stage names. First he was the Beale Street Blues Boy, which was shortened into Blues Boy and then into the name he performs under today, B.B. King.
His recording career began in the late 1940s, and includes such hits as the 1965 blues album "Live At The Regal" and a 1976 collaboration with Bobby "Blue" Bland, "Together for the First Time."
In recent years he has appeared on albums with Bonnie Raitt and Ireland's U2.
He has opened concerts for the Rolling Stones, and has won 5 Grammy awards.
Also appearing on the bill in Ocean City on Aug. 17 is Little Feat. The band includes Paul Barrere on guitar and vocals, Sam Clayton on percussion and vocals, Kenny Gradney on bass, Richie Hayward on drums and vocals, Shaun Murphy on vocals, Bill Payne on keyboards and vocals and Fred Tackett on guitar and trumpet.
The band was formed in 1969 with the late Lowell George as lead vocalist, and had a string of hits including the albums "Little Feat" and "Sailing Shoes." Other albums included "Dixie Chicken," "Feats Don't Fail Me Now," "The Last Record Album," "Time Loves A Hero," "Waiting For Columbus," "Down on the Farm," and "Hoy Hoy!"
When Lowell George died in 1979, the band released one album before splitting up. Then in 1985, the band reunited for a single concert session. That session led to an album in 1988, "Let It Roll."
After a few personnel changes, female vocalist Shaun Murphy joined the band for its three most recent albums and will appear with the group in Ocean City.
Dr. John will join Little Feat and B.B. King on the Ocean City stage. The two-time Grammy winner is a New Orleans musician born in 1941. As a teen-ager he met some of the Big Easy's biggest players, including Professor Longhair, Huey "Piano" Smith and Allen Toussaint.
In the early 1960s, he worked as a songwriter, producer and session player before moving to Los Angeles. There he worked with Phil Spector, the O'Jays, Bobby Darin, Sam Cooke and Sonny & Cher. In 1968, he released his first album, "Gris-Gris." A string of albums followed, most recently "Television."
B.B. King won't be the only son of Mississippi whose music will be heard Wednesday night. A group of musicians will perform a revue entitled "A Tribute to Muddy Waters," honoring the noted blues performer. The band includes Pinetop Perkins on piano and vocals, Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson on guitar and vocals, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith on drums and vocals, Calvin "Fuzz" Jones on bass and vocals, Jerry Portnoy on harmonica and vocals and Bob Margolin on guitar and vocals. All six musicians worked with Muddy Waters as either sidemen or band members.
IF YOU GO
Tickets to Wednesday night's show are $27.50, and can be purchased at the Ocean City Convention Center between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Tickets can also be obtained through TicketMaster. In Baltimore, call (410) 481-SEAT.