By Don Wilcock
Yes, yes, yes…
“You goin’ with us again?,” asked B.B. King. Ernie Williams looked the King of the Blues straight in the eye. “I want to, but I don’t know. I have some work to do right here (in New York’s Capital Region) that I signed contracts with, and I can’t.”
Ernie and B.B. are the same age. Their stories have many parallels. Both were sharecroppers, grandsons of slaves. Both began playing guitar at a young age and were so drawn to music that they made their first guitars out of available materials. Both played first for all black audiences. But both had hearts so full of love and life that they not only overcame prejudice, but their every deed became an example for us all.
“At first I did (hate white people),” Ernie told me in 1999, “but you live to let things pass you by. You let it slide off your shoulder… You have to look at things and let it go and let it slide off your back. Otherwise, you’re dead. You can’t do this in this country. Thank the Lord you get health and strength. You have to smile and everything ’cause you grow up doing this, and you just can’t hate ’cause hate is a disease. It’s terrible. It will destroy you.”
There were two significant differences between B.B. and Ernie. While King travelled the world, Ernie never strayed far from home. And while B.B. now sits in a chair through his shows, Ernie never stopped boogying, never gave less than 110 percent.