Barbara Strauss remembers one of the two B.B. King concerts she produced at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota.
The King of the Blues was sick -- he had the flu or a bad cold -- but he still put on a great show.
Afterward, he sat on his tour bus, welcoming his fans.
"He'd bring them in one by one," Strauss said. "He wouldn't just sign autographs. He'd chat with them, listen to their stories."
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It was getting late, about 1 a.m., and King was still chatting with fans. And more were lined up outside, still waiting.
"I told him, 'B.B., you don't have to do this, you're under the weather,'" Strauss said.
"He said, 'I've waited a long time for these people to come and see me, and I'm not going to turn a single one of them away.'"
King was perhaps the greatest bluesman of them all. But he was always as honored to meet his fans as they all were to meet him.
He died Thursday night after spending some weeks in hospice care.
He developed a style of guitar playing that influenced generations of blues and rock players. You could hear great guitarists playing like B.B. King, but you always knew B.B. King when you heard him.
"There aren't many guitarists that you can hear one or two notes and know immediately who's playing them," said Paul Benjamin. "B.B. King, Albert King and Albert Collins. Those were the three guitarists that you knew from just a couple of notes."
Benjamin produces major blues festivals across the country, including the Bradenton Blues Festival.
"I met B.B. a number of times and I can't tell you how many times I saw him play," Benjamin said Friday. "This is a great day for that blues band up in heaven. I'm sure they had a party last night."
Benjamin remembered King as not just a musician, but as an ambassador for the blues.
"Up until recently, he was playing 150 to 200 shows a year," Benjamin said. "He didn't have to. He loved what he did and he loved his fans. He was very genuine. There was no sense of 'I'm a big star.' After shows he stayed around and handed out guitar picks."
Doug Deming, a nationally known blues guitarist who lives in Bradenton, said King had a profound effect on him.
The first blues album Deming ever bought was "Live at the Regal," a 1964 B.B. King album that is often called the best live blues album ever.
"It was a reissue in the '80," Deming said. "There was a sticker on it that said, 'The definitive recording of blues live performance.'I figured that was the one to get. I bought it and, y'know, they were right. I still listen to that regularly."
Although King is most widely cited for his guitar work, to true blues fans he was known just as much as a powerful and distinctive singer.
"In the early '60s, there were no guitar heroes," Deming said. "On that 'Live at the Regal' album, it calls B.B. King 'the king of the blues singers.' He was known as a singer, not as a guitarist."
Later, of course, King would be commonly known as "The King of the Blues." In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine placed King at No. 6 on its list of all-time greatest guitarists.
It was when the British Invasion bands came to America that the era of guitar stars really began, Deming said. And when the British guitarists started talking about B.B. King's influential guitar playing, American audiences started to revere his playing.
"Blues guitar playing, at its simplest, is supposed to imitate the mournful sound of the human voice," Deming said. "And that's what you heard in B.B. King's guitar playing. You heard his voice."
King played with everyone from Duke Ellington to Eric Clapton to U2 -- the most iconic acts in music of their generations. They considered themselves honored to share a stage or a studio with him.
"All these people -- Clapton, Bono, all of them -- " Benjamin said, "he didn't have to seek them out; they sought him out."
King played several times in the Bradenton-Sarasota area, most often at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota. He played there as recently as last year. He was 88 and his health was already fading.
But he played at least once in Bradenton itself. It was in 1958, when he was 32. King played at a place called the Palms. It cost $1.75 to get in.
One of Strauss' most prized pieces of music memorabilia is an autographed poster from that show. In the early 2000s, Strauss was producing a B.B. King concert at the Van Wezel. A fan gave her the poster as a bribe so he could go backstage and meet King. Long before she started producing concerts, back when she was in college, Strauss worked in a club in her college town. She stuck around during Christmas break, and B.B. King played at the club. Because most of the students had gone home, only 12 people showed up. "He looked around and said, 'It looks like we're gonna have a great show tonight,'" Strauss said. "He didn't care whether he played for 12 people or 12,000."
Even though King has joined that blues band in heaven, the rest of us still have something like 60 B.B. King albums, from 1955's "Singin' the Blues" to 2012's "Live at the Royal Albert Hall," to ease our grief.
"To me," Paul Benjamin said, "the thrill will never be gone."
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.