Backstage with B. B. King

B. B. King may be gone now, but the thrill of his music lives on.


El Paso DJ Sonny Melendrez and B. B. King backstage at the Pan American Center, New Mexico State University, Oct. 24, 1970.


B. B. King at New Mexico State University, Oct. 24, 1970.

Riley “B.B.” King died last night at age 89 taking a bit of the world’s soul with him but leaving behind music that will live on for fans not yet born.

He played the Pan American Center at New Mexico State University on Oct. 24, 1970. This was after his version of “The Thrill is Gone” came out but before the tune earned him a Grammy as Best R&B Male Vocalist. That song crossed over introducing him to a white audience that joined his existing fan base in adoring him

I only met him backstage because he was presenting a watch to El Paso DJ and program director Sonny Melendrez for some now-forgotten reason. No one thought to arrange for pictures, so they drafted me, a second-semester journalism student, who’d been hanging close to the stage shooting Tri-X. Sonny left El Paso the next year, became a prominent DJ and PD in Los Angeles and now works out of San Antonio as a motivational speaker (without the Afro).

Sonny also posted his tribute to King with another of my photos from that special night in Las Cruces.

2 thoughts on “Backstage with B. B. King

  1. Mr. Diven:

    How quickly you are able to find seemingly deeply filed photographs of your subjects. Can you share how you are able to do this? Do you use a program, card files, etc.?

  2. John: My steel-trap memory? Multiple minions? It helps to have a database with 3,500 entries so far. Many thousands to go.

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