The quintessential album of the urban blues experience may well be ‘Live at the Regal.’ Recorded November 21, 1964, at Chicago’s leading African American showcase, the album not only captures B.B. King in all his musical glory but also provides a rare document of the fervent interaction of a black audience–particularly the female segment–with a blues hero. B.B. was already King of the Blues by this time, but he had yet to cross over to the white market, and as the women at the Regal attest, his appeal was based on much more than just as music. Highlights include ‘How Blue Can You Get,’ ‘Sweet Sixteen,’ ‘My Own Fault,’ and others which were staples of King’s repertoire, played with a fine sense of dynamics by King’s first-rate band, directed by drummer Sonny Freeman. While the liner notes state that King was at the Regal for a week-long stand, further research reveals that the throughout the week (Nov. 20-27) he was the headliner of a package numbering ’38 stars,’ according to local ads. Other than blues-singing rival Junior Parker, those stars were mostly R&B and soul singers and groups (Mary Wells, the Dells, the Five Du-Tones, et al), so the fact that King connected so strongly with an audience that may have been at the Regal more for the rhythm than the blues is even more impressive (listen to the youthful screams in reponse to both his singing and guitar on side one).

— Jim O’Neal