Swansong to music lovers — Bye bye B.B. Kings

The B.B. Kings night club located in Times Square in Manhattan.
Photo by Vinette K. Pryce

Almost two decades into providing an ideal location and reliable showplace for showcasing eclectic music, the Times Square club named for blues icon B.B. Kings will be closing their doors for the last time on April 29.

In a message emailed from owners and operators to insiders they referred to as “Our Valued Patron,” a farewell message read:

“It is with an extremely heavy heart that we share that after 18 wonderful years bringing you live performances by some of the most talented names in music and entertainment, we have announced our final run of shows in the current Times Square location. As a result of escalating rent, we are being forced to close our doors at the end of April.”

The surprising news filtered throughout the music industry and later surfaced on their web portal giving consolation that perhaps the popular showplace might resurface.

“While we are in the process of selecting a new location in Manhattan to relocate the venue, we wanted to curate a special closing week celebration to thank you all for your support over the past two decades.”

Due to the untimely arrangement, some of the shows previously scheduled were canceled, among them the April 23 performance by Calypso Rose.

The club which provided an outlet to jazz, blues, r&b, hip-hop, soca and reggae artists is probably the largest venue which regularly offers listening and dance space to niche market patrons.

Since establishing a presence between 7th and 8th Avenue in the busy midtown area, the club diligently provided a live setting for diverse repertoire of dancehall, and traditional reggae booking acts such as Maxi Priest, Junior Reid, Yellowman, Capleton, Alpha Blondy, Mykal Rose, Black Uhuru, Sanchez, The Wailers, Damian Marley, Cocoa Tea, Taurus Riley and a long roster of acts from Jamaica who otherwise on occasion would often appear as second billing names at Manhattan’s choice spots.

“This is a blow for reggae music,” Vivian Scott Chew, CEO of Timezone International said.

“I am shocked,” deejay Redd Foxx weighed in.

And Jah Paul Haughton, a persevering reggae recorder explained that “the club will be missed.”

Established as an alternative entertainment spot to lower Manhattan’s SOB’s and Irving Plaza, the venue – one of a nation-wide chain named for a blues legend — accommodated 1,000 patrons in an acoustically satisfying space easily accessible to public transportation.

“I patronized on occasion mostly to catch George Clinton and funk acts,” Scott Chew explained.

As an artist and repertoire executive at SONY Music she signed Clinton to a record deal and remained a regular supporter of his “Mothership” base to soar during his annual appearances there.

Clinton is slated to perform on the eve of the final show on April 28.

On April 20 a reggae fest combined dancehall and soca artists for a final Caribbean showcase.

“All shows scheduled beyond the April 29 closing date will be moved to various venues throughout the city,” the notification added.

Catch You On The Inside!

Slick Rick, a rapper born in England to Jamaican parents and his Barbados-born collaborator, Doug E. Fresh are among the last headliners billed to perform on April 25 before the month-end closing.

El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico is slated for the following night.

And blues legend, Buddy Guy will headline the last performance.

“The weekly Sunday Gospel Brunch featuring The Harlem Gospel Choir will give their final performance on April 29, and we are currently working with the group to find a new home for their weekly residency which will be announced shortly.”

“None of this would have been possible without you and we are eternally grateful! “

The popular restaurant and Mothers Day dining room known as Lucille’s Grill — named for the legend’s guitar — located inside the space will remain open until the final day’s concert and will feature sets by club favorites B.B. King Blues Club All-Stars, Jon Paris and A Decade of Soul.

Reports are that escalating rents in the high-profile, tourist strip forced the closing.

“We look forward to celebrating the past and looking toward the future with you all. Your patronage means the world to us and we cannot thank you enough. We will see you soon!”

Catch You On The Inside!

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