Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Piece of B.B. King for sale

Autographed guitar donated for Sun Theatre improvements.

Matt Weiss can’t believe he has a trademark Gibson guitar that belonged to legendary blues artist B.B. King.

But the co-manager of the Sun Theatre will have to give it up Dec. 8 when the instrument will be sold to the highest bidder during a silent auction.

The auction is part of a fund-raising event, at Nebraska Salt & Grain Co.’s downtown building, to raise money for a digital projector and other improvements to the Sun.

“The guitar will be a great investment for someone,” Matt said.

Matt said playhouse members talked about offering the guitar to the highest bidder on eBay.

“Then we decided we wanted someone locally, or from the surrounding area, to own a guitar signed by B.B. King,” he said.

Matt got his hands on the guitar through Lethi Wees, who is a friend of his wife, Lorri Weiss.

Both work at First State Bank—Lorri in Gothenburg and Wees in Omaha.

Wees is friends with Walter King, who is B.B. King’s nephew. Walter, a saxophonist, plays 260-plus gigs a year with his 86-year-old uncle.

Matt and Lorri inititally asked Wees if Walter could get autographed pictures from his uncle.

“Walter said he would see if he could get an autographed guitar,” Matt said.

On the morning of Nov. 15, Matt drove to Omaha to meet Walter and Wees.

Walter had finished a gig with B.B., in a small town near Seattle at 2 a.m. that day, he said, and then flew to Omaha where the threesome met for lunch.

“Walter thought donating the guitar was for a good cause,” Matt said, noting that Walter used to teach music at both the high school and college levels and once lived in Omaha. “He loves music and is a down-to-earth guy.

In addition to the autograph, two plaques are attached to the guitar—one inscribed with B.B.’s name and the other with the name “Lucille.”

Lucille is what B.B. began naming his guitars after an incident, while performing at a dance, in the mid-1950s in Twist, AK.

From an Internet story, Matt learned that two men got into a fight and knocked over a kerosene stove which started a fire.

“B.B. raced outdoors to safety and realized he’d left his beloved $30 guitar acoustic guitar inside,” Matt said.

B.B. narrowly escaped death but saved the guitar, later naming it after the woman over which the men were fighting.

“It was to remind him never to do a crazy thing like fight over a woman again,” Matt said.

In 1982, the Gibson Guitar Corporation launched the B. B. King Lucille model.

Along with buying a digital projector, playhouse members also want to upgrade the Sun’s sound system and move the sound booth downstairs and buy new curtains and a retractable cinema screen.

Matt said they are in the process of getting bids for the projector and new curtains.

In the inner lobby, members would also like to add a display case for theatre memorabilia, install a couple of flat-screen televisions to advertise upcoming movies or productions and broadcast trivia and other things while people are waiting to buy concessions.

Although the silent auction is by invitation only, Weiss said anyone interested in attending and/or bidding on the guitar can if playhouse officials know the bidder.

Those interested can call the theatre at 537-3235, Matt at 537-3252 or Sun co-manager Jill Rubenthaler at 529-1620.

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