"Live In Cook County Jail" - B. B. King (1971)
I was familiar with B. B. King, I knew who he was. But I'd nothing in my collection to pull. Someone in the vinyl community held up "Live In Cook County Jail" and I knew I had to have it. The textured album cover is so memorable. The album title is in an obvious prison-issue font. And the bluish-gray tint captures King squeezing out every spark from his guitar, while the gloomy prison bars loom behind him. Located in Chicago, Illinois...Cook County Jail is the third-largest jail system in the United States...and at one time held the largest concentration of inmates in the free world. (Maybe they should have called the place..."Crook" County. God bless'em.)
The album is an interesting snapshot. And despite its location, BB's performance is classic and as awkwardly fun as one could get. The album starts with an introduction of prison officials and is met with boos and catcalls as one might expect. When the guest of honor is brought out, only nervous appreciation welcomes him. It is only when BB starts to play that the crowd loosens up and enjoys themselves.
"Live In Cook County Jail" (back)
Favorites include "How Blue Can You Get." It is this song where you can feel the cloud lift off the inmates' shoulders. Just a gem. There is also a great version of "The Thrill Is Gone" found here. B.B. King had only recorded the song in 1969, so he was still tweaking it out and bringing a fresh and exciting energy to the classic. "Worry, Worry, Worry" is a bright guitar number with tasty horns shining all around him. His vocals shine, too. Midway he works in some funny patter...a little tongue-in-cheek...with the prison crowd. He runs a little long on the lip, but it's still great.
I'd been keeping an eye out for my own copy. I knew I'd find one in the wild eventually and spied a copy at The Moose Antiques just before Covid starting getting serious. I used to drop by The Moose quite a bit when they had a spot for records. When the main seller retired, I just quit going. Anyway, I got a wild hair one afternoon and dropped by. I didn't see many records there and they were hard to find when I did. It was just luck I saw it. But luck is luck and for $10...I got to take it home. This was B. B. King's only album to reach number one.
SIDE A MATRIX
SIDE B MATRIX
"How Blue Can You Get" - B. B. King / "Live In Cook County Jail (1971)
A1 "Introduction" 1:50
A2 "Every Day I Have The Blues" 1:43
A3 "How Blue Can You Get" 5:09
A4 "Worry, Worry, Worry" 9:57
B1 "Medley: "3 o'Clock Blues" / "Darlin' You Know I Love You" 6:15
B2 "Sweet Sixteen" 4:20
B3 "The Thrill Is Gone" 5:31
B4 "Please Accept My Love" 4:02
B.B. King - guitar, vocals
Wilbert Freeman - bass
Sonny Freeman - drums
John Browning - trumpet
Louis Hubert - tenor saxophone
Booker Walker - alto saxophone
Ron Levy - piano