B. B. King - guitar, vocals
James Toney - organ
Wilbur Freeman - bass
Sonny Freeman - drums
Pat Williams - trumpet
Lee Gatman - tenor sax
Many consider B. B. King's 1964 album, Live at the Regal, to be one of the greatest pure blues recordings of all time. The man himself has disputed this adulation over the years, stating that his abilities improved considerably over the next few years. Indeed, these June 1968 Winterland concerts go a long way toward justifying his claims, capturing the bluesman at the peak of his considerable powers. B. B. continues performing to the present day, and has by now established himself as a true national treasure; but as good as his later work is, it pales in comparison with performances like these 1968 sets. Here his guitar sound was raw, his singing more engaging and his fingers more agile. The music heard here is the real deal, played by a leaner and meaner Mississippi King, complete with soulful voice and distinctive, stinging guitar style.
The late show focuses more directly on slow blues numbers than the early one. Early in the set, a few up-tempo numbers do surface, but it's the laid-back slower songs that display King in his best light - as a phenomenally talented guitarist and songwriter of the blues, and also, as a compelling interpreter of material outside of the genre.
The performance begins much like the early show, with King's band warming up on two songs. The set opens with the jazz standard "Song For My Father," followed by an instrumental take on the smoldering Bobbie Gentry hit, "Ode To Billie Joe" Toward the end of the second number, the band begins vamping as Bill Graham takes the stage and introduces B. B. King to enthusiastic applause.