This is a story of B.B., the key, and me.
When we moved to Ft. Myers fifteen years ago, my sister-in-law Gail drove down with me. Jim drove his own car and brought the dog.
Gail stayed a few days with the intention of helping us unpack. But our furniture didn’t arrive until well after she was scheduled to leave, so we spent our time sight seeing in my new town.
We had arrived in Fort Myers on a Tuesday afternoon. On Friday morning I made my first trip out to Southwest Regional Airport to drop Gail off for her flight back to Columbus. I was truly on my own now in a new city, one I had never seen until I moved to it. I could finally just see it through my own eyes.
While driving out of the airport, the song “Key to the Highway” came on the radio. I recognized it because I had the album Riding With the King by Eric Clapton and B.B. King. I was surprised to hear the song on the radio, and thought perhaps my new town had a very cool radio station.
The song begins:
I’ve got the key to the highway
Billed out and bound to go
Gonna leave here running
Walking is both too slow
I was creating a new version of myself. I had no idea where my new life would take me. I had spent 44 years in Ohio, and now I could start anew. I had the key to the highway of making myself whatever I wanted to be — no baggage. It was a freeing moment I have never forgotten, and the song “Key to the Highway” is a major part of that feeling.
It turns out that the radio stations were no great shakes; in fact, I have never heard this song on the radio again. But the bluesy rhythm of the song was my soundtrack to my new life. For that I am grateful.
This summer we plan on returning to Mississippi, and hopefully will spend some time in B.B.’s hometown of Indianola visiting the B.B. King Interpretive Center. It carries much more meaning now that this legend has passed on.
Godspeed, and thank you, King, for the key to so much great music. The Blues.