"The blues is the easiest to learn but the hardest to master just like living life," is a quote by Alan Mirikitani, known to his fans as BB Chung King, one of music’s great blues artists who passed away on July 22, 2015. I learned of his passing through my friend Don Randi and expected to see some reports in the media on news services or major online sources, but only a few people on Facebook were posting the sad news. Even though this phenomenal blues guitar player, singer and composer was not widely known and celebrated like many of his blues and rock colleagues, BB Chung King is worth remembering and honoring with a tribute to his talent.
Alan Mirikitani was born in Lynwood California on March 1, 1955 and grew up in Downey. He was a sansei, (third generation Japanese American) which made him unique in the American blues/rock genre. Most musicians playing blues are mainly black or white. His alias, BB Chung King, was a nickname he had since a friend called him that because Mirikitani’s guitar hero was BB King. His remarkable playing style was a modern rock slant on straight blues guitar playing. Mikiritani played with such emotion and personality, and his compositions were outstanding, so it is hard to understand why he never became more famous.
When he formed a band, The Buddah Heads, he began playing clubs around Los Angeles as BB Chung King & The Buddah Heads. The Buddah Heads signed with RCA Records in 1994 and released a CD titled “Blues Had a Baby,” which was loved by critics and blues fans alike. BB Chung King & The (screaming) Buddah Heads toured the US and Asia to sellout crowds over the years and their songs (written by Mirikitani) have been featured in films My Cousin Vinny, Robocop 3, Great Expectations, Unhook the Stars and others.
After the 1994 release of “Blues Had a Baby” BB Chung King & The Buddah Heads released other albums; “Raw,” “Mumbo Jumbo,” “Howling at the Moon,” and more. These albums were released independently. Several artists have covered BB Chung King’s songs in live shows and recordings. Coco Montoya and Ruth Brown are among the most notable. He lived in Burbank, CA for many years and also opened a recording studio in Burbank called The Dawghouse.
The last live show that Mirikitani performed was in April 2015 at the Ventura County Blues Festival in Moorpark, CA. At the festival, he played with Coco Montoya to a huge, electrified audience of fans.
Like many other music greats that have passed away too soon, Alan Mirikitani leaves us wishing for more of his talents in new compositions and shows. But we are fortunate to have his songs and recordings to preserve his legacy. R.I.P. BB Chung King
Watch an interview of Alan Mirikitani at The Ventura County Blues Festival - HERE
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