column 2 How B.B. King's Cafe lost its star


Our hotel backs onto 42nd Street and if you turn the corner twice you find yourself in front of B.B.King's cafe. A venue where in the next few weeks Robert Ford and David Crosby's CPR, among others, are due to play. There was a blues jam session planned for the Monday evening and at 9 am, Anita and I were at the box office to reserve our seats.
"At the moment there's a problem with the computer. We can't take bookings for this evenings' show."
I told them I wanted to attend the blues session and associated grill party .
"No problem about the blues session. It's on Monday."
So at 8pm we waited at what I shall for convenience sake call Room 2. Nice girl of the type, 'I know what hip is', led us to our table. Right in front of the stage.. The only disadvantage was that when the door opened the draught blew the serviettes off the table.
It bore no resemblance to my conception of a jam session. We weren't there for more than five minutes when the band began a Bonny Riath number. The singer could have performed as a stand-in for Bonny if the latter were to fall sick. And the band was so tight. They could teach a thing or two to our school management team and their rigid plans. The prices gave me a bit of a jolt. Ten dollars for a half litre bottle of sparkling water. Oh, well, what the hell. No jam session but a great blues rock band on the menu.
Anita had ordered grilled salmon and she discovered that this item was served cold and raw inside. Lesson one: good blues is raw. I had grilled steak. Delicious, but served without chips or vegetables. Lesson two: Don't complain, good blues should be served without frills.
Our water disappeared pretty quickly. I had emptied my glass and the waiter had filled it up again without having to be asked. I don't drink fast enough for him, I thought.
As always I had finished before Anita, so after ten minutes Anita was still laboriously munching away at her salmon while my glass and plates had been cleared away. So, Lesson three: "No time to waste", is also applicable to B.B.King's cafe. Within half an hour we had consumed one delicious steak, one cold grilled salmon, half a litre of sparkling water and five songs for a mere seventy-one dollars and ten cents. You're supposed to leave a tip, so I let them keep the fifteen cents change to divide between the three of them.