Wednesday, February 24, 2010

B.B. King : Sweet Sixteen

SONG: Sweet Sixteen

WRITTEN BY: Some sites say the song was written by B.B. King and Joe Josea. Others say it was written by “Ertegun and Ahmet”.


APPEARS ON: From the Beginning (1956). Other references say it was recorded in 1960 but doesn’t list an album. It’s on numerous other compilations and live recordings.

Since K. introduced me to this blog I have seen many posts about blues songs. Most of them I hadn’t heard of before reading about them. At the risk of having my posting access revoked I will admit to the readers that I am not the biggest blues fan in the world. I like it in certain spots but if I have a choice I would rather listen to A Tribe Called Quest over John Lee Hooker. It’s a personal preference. There are a handful of blues songs that can get the nod over just about anything. One of those is Sweet Sixteen by B.B King. I like the blues but I love B.B. King. He’s one of the reasons I am tortured by the fact I have no musical talent and can’t play an instrument if my life depended on it.

When I was a kid one of the highlights of my weekend was when my dad would pull out the reel to reel music player he brought back from Vietnam and play music on it. The sound quality sucked and it seemed to take him an hour to set the thing up but whenever he pulled it out I knew the big man was in a good mood. He probably made some extra money that week or something and for a person that hardly ever spent money on himself, the reel to reel was one of his few man toys. Unfortunately for him there was only two reels survived the trip from Vietnam back to New Orleans. One was Aretha Franklin and the other was B.B. King live in concert. I was a B.B. King fan at the age of ten even though I didn’t understand what he was singing about.

The lyrics are pretty cut and dry. The song is about a troubled man that has been in love with this woman since she was 16 years old and she’s not treating him right. Before you think B.B. King is talking about something risque, keep in mind this song was recorded back in 1960 and women got married young especially down south. If he made it in today’s time it would have to be Sweet Twenty Six (I hope everyone got that joke). People who haven’t been through the feeling of wanting someone to feel a certain way about them may not get the emotion B.B. is showing when he sings this song. If you can’t get with the singing then just listen to how Lucille cries right along with him. It's a duet featuring the singer and their instrument which are the best performances. I suggest finding as many different live versions as you can find. They are all slightly different but great. The live version I am posting below makes me feel like sharing a cigar and a drink with my dad. Even I didn’t like the song I would watch the performance anyway because it’s always fun to watch someone great at what they do when they are doing it at the top of their game.



When I first met you baby
baby you were just sweet sixteen
When I first met you baby
baby you was just sweet sixteen
Just left your home then baby
the sweetest thing I'd ever seen

But you wouldn't do nothing for me baby
You wouldn't do anything I asked you to
You wouldn't do nothing for me baby
You wouldn't do anything I asked you to
You know you ran away from your home baby
And now you wanna run away from old me too

You know I love you baby
I love you before I could call your name
You know, you know I loved you baby
Baby I loved you, I love you before I could call your name
It seems like everything I do now baby
Everything I do is in vain

Treat me mean baby
But I'll keep on loving you just the same
Treat me mean baby
I'll keep on loving you just the same
But one of these days baby
You're gonna give a lot of money
Just to hear someone call my name

Yes sweet sixteen baby... sweet sixteen... oh yes
The sweetest thing baby
Oh yes, the sweetest thing I ever seen
You know I'm having so much trouble woman
Baby I wonder
Yes I wonder
Baby I wonder
Oh, I wonder what in the world's gonna happen to me


  1. Whew! Not liking the blues is one thing, but If you had said you didn't like "Sweet Sixteen" then I might have had to revoke your privileges!

    Awesome video of a great performer at the top of his game. I didn't see BB until he was in his mid 60s. I went to see the legend and just hoped that he had something left. So much for underestimating BB King: His chops were not only intact, his singing was out of this world -- better in my estimate than when he was younger. I can still hear his voice booming out and filling the concert hall.

    We took my then 10-year old son to see BB back in the late 90s on the assumption that he might not be around much longer. Little did we know! My son loved the show and wore out the t-shirt. He still talks about it years later.

  2. I first discovered BB on his Live in Cook County Jail album in 1971. And I still get chills down my spine when he does "How Blue Can You Get" and bellows out that line: "I gave you seven children, and now you want to give 'em back!" Whew! That man just has a way of putting a song across.

    And yeah, even with Type 2 Diabetes at the age of 84, the man is still going strong. He's played at the Newport Jazz Festival several times in the last decade. He sits in a chair mostly when he performs these days, but he hasn't lost any of his old fire.

  3. TheRealAngelHeartMarch 3, 2010 at 3:46 PM

    Turkish born Ahmet Ertegün, founder of Atlantic Records, wrote "Sweet Sixteen", under the pseudonym "A. Nugetre" (Ertegun backwards). It was first recorded by Big Joe Turner and then by B.B. King. Chains of Love was another blues classic penned by Ahmet Ertegün He also wrote the Ray Charles hit "Mess Around". and co-wrote "Don't play that Song" a hit for both Ben E. King and Aretha Franklin.