Blues superstar B.B. King is returning to the grounds of the old Mississippi Delta cotton gin where as a teenager in the 1940s he worked as a tractor driver.
On Wednesday, the now 86-year-old King will be back in the tiny farming town of Indianola, Miss., to headline his own homecoming celebration. It's a tradition King and the community have enjoyed almost every year for more than three decades.
King and his band are scheduled to perform on the grounds of the former cotton gin, which is now a community center and part of the B.B. King Museum. King is also expected to play later Wednesday night at Club Ebony, where King has performed throughout his career. King restored the music joint and donated it to the museum.
"B.B. has always been very good, very generous, to his hometown," said Ann Shackelford, spokeswoman for the museum, which is organizing this year's homecoming celebration. She said King has returned almost annually to Indianola to perform free of charge for more than 30 years but this is the first year the museum is organizing the event.
"It's really amazing because when he comes here, so many people know him as a friend, and he greets them that way," Shackelford said. "What's so special is that B.B. and his band do this for free. They are really busy but take time out to come and do this. It means a lot to this community."
The museum's collection includes artifacts from King's Las Vegas recording studio, along with exhibits connecting blues music with the history, culture and economy of the Mississippi Delta. It also features a digitally enhanced version of King's guitar Lucille, enabling visitors to "play" his licks.
Malcolm White, director of the Mississippi Arts Commission and chairman of the Mississippi Blues Commission, said King has always embraced his Mississippi roots.
"He has never harbored bad feelings about where he comes from," White said. "He's held onto his roots and is always the first one to support his home state."