Meeting a Music Legend in Cuba

An innocent trip to the poolside at a Cuban all-inclusive resort has turned into one of the best stories I have had the pleasure to share with the world.

My husband and I were aimlessly wandering around the resort, checking out the amenities and getting the lay-of-the-land to kill some time between being at the beach and waiting for the supper buffet to begin.

In the basement of the resort, there is a lovely pool area with a bar and plenty of seating for visiting during the day or enjoying the nightly entertainment.

I spotted two younger travelers we had met the night before talking with a couple who were closer to our age range. My hubby and I grabbed a refreshment and pulled up a seat.

The discussion in progress centered around music. That was not surprising as our two younger travelling friends played instruments and, from what I could gather, were either in a band or involved in their local music scene.

Introductions were made. Anne and Russell were residing in British Columbia, the same as me and my husband, but they also had a home in Texas. Danny and Mike are from Toronto. Within a short time, our other new friend, Don, from Edmonton, joined us and the next thing you know we are all talking, laughing and sharing stories.

Anne, Russell, Mike and Danny were involved in a lively discussion surrounding music. Usually, these discussions have a natural progression starting with everyone stating their preferred music genres, followed by name dropping artists who have influenced their lives and then continuing on from there.

I listened to Danny and Mike talk about their music preferences, which ranged from Led Zeppelin and Rush to current artists and bands I have never heard of.

When Russell talked about his personal music tastes it hit me suddenly that he was speaking of these artists in a different manner; it was if he actually knew the artists he was speaking about.

Who is this guy?

I haven’t met many celebrities in my life. In my years working at a jumping live music venue on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton, Alberta during the 90’s and early 2000’s, I served coffee to Dr. Hook and told Mike Reno from Loverboy that he was absolutely not allowed to take his dog through the kitchen to get through to the pub for sound check (he did it anyway). My claims to celebrity run-ins are very small, indeed.

As the conversation progressed and I started talking more with Anne, I realized that I could possibly be sitting and having drinks with a Very Important Person or Celebrity, I just didn’t know who it was.

I am not the type of person to pry into someone’s personal life if there is any indication they could be a Very Important Person or celebrity. Famous people need to rest and relax too without fans taking up time asking for autographs or accosting them with requests to help his/her child/family member/friend break into ‘the business’. In my silence, my curiosity was absolutely killing me!

Anne and Russell are incredibly interesting and down to earth people. Their smiles and laughter come easy and they have obviously spent years together travelling and experiencing the world. Anne had just officially retired and was now preparing to accompany Russell to Tokyo, Japan at the end of January to start his new music tour and promote a new album.

Music tour? Japan? Album? Just exactly who we were all sitting around sharing late afternoon cocktails with??

“Do you know who BB King is?”, Anne asked.

Yes, I definitely knew who BB King is even though Jazz and Blues had not been a preferred genre on my music playlists.

Wait a minute. BB King passed away a few years ago so it couldn’t be the BB King. Of course, stories still float around that Elvis and Michael Jackson are alive and well, mixing cocktails for tourists at a seaside shack in Jamaica – so you never know.

“Russell played with BB King for many years as his bass player.” Well, how cool is that!
Russell Jackson toured with BB King from 1979 to 1986 playing bass on an upright and guitar. The band played 300 days a year performing two shows a night.

BB King saw Russell’s potential back in the mid 70’s when Russell was starting out his music career playing music with Otis Clay. Hearing Russell and Anne talk about BB King and their incredible circle of musical friends was otherworldly for me. I did not want to miss one second of this opportunity to hear personal experiences shared with Jazz, Blues, Rock and Pop legends.

Russell has met and hung out with such legends as Diana Ross, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, most of the Jackson family, Dizzy Gillespie and the list goes on. What an incredible life to have lived.

New Tribute Album Tour

Russell and James ‘Boogaloo’ Bolden are collaborating on a tribute album being released this month (very soon anyway) under Ruff Records.

The new single “The Thrill is Gone” by BB King Blues Band featuring Michael Lee has just been released on Spotify – be sure to check it out!

Contributing artists on the new album include legends such as George Benson, Taj Mahal, Joe Louis Walker, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Kenny Neal, Tito Jackson, Michael Lee and Diunna Greenleaf, who all have admired BB King and have been influenced by his musical talent.

With such talent at the table, this new album is sure to touch many lives and influence many artists.

If you happen to be in Tokyo, Japan from January 31 to February 3, 2019 be sure to check out the concert. There will be 2 shows a night and it is guaranteed to be a real treat!

BB King passed away in May of 2015, but his music will live on through the music and lives of those who knew and loved him. As I was writing this and reviewing my notes, I downloaded a BB King playlist and listened to the man to whom so many can attribute their inspiration and success.

Chances are if you meet Russell and Anne along the way, they will be happy to sit down with you and enjoy spending some time telling you all about BB King and the people in their world. I am blessed and grateful to have been able to spend some time listening to amazing stories and sharing a beautiful Cuban sunset with two of the most interesting people I have ever met.

BB King’s music is incredible, full of variety, has some amazing guitar and percussion sections and is now going to be a staple on my playlists. If you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to his soulful voice and his incredible story telling lyrics, be sure to do so. You won’t regret it.In the meantime, here is a link to a video of Russell playing Kansas City (Here I Come) on the beach with the local beach band.

No one needed to beg or coax Russell into playing. Bass is his life. Music is in his blood. He is happy to share his gift with the world and for that, we all thank you.

For all the latest updates on the album release and tour dates check out Russell’s website at


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