Any extended recording career is bound to contain underrated gems, but when that career spans some 60 years as BB King’s did, there is untold treasure deserving of more attention. One such track is contained in the Billboard Hot 100 of October 22, 1966, which featured a modest new entry, at No.99, for his ABC single “Don’t Answer The Door (Part 1).”
King was hugely established as one of the masters of his craft by the mid-1960s, but yet to make the full crossover to a mainstream audience that was helped no end by his endorsement by the Rolling Stones. Even if he was primarily an album artist, the blues figurehead was a fairly frequent visitor to both the R&B and pop singles charts, but had been absent from the latter for more than two years when “Don’t Answer The Door” made its appearance.
His version of a Jimmy Johnson tune, it was produced by Johnny Pate, and contained the scorching guitar work and impassioned vocals that made King’s recording presence so electric. “BB’s Biggest,” shouted a full-page ad for the release in the October 8 edition of Billboard, and rightly so. The song entered the R&B chart the following week, and would climb all the way to No.2 on that listing, his biggest hit since “Sweet Sixteen Pt. 1” hit the same peak in 1960. “Don’t Answer The Door” was already BB’s 38th entry on the R&B chart, representing precisely the halfway point of his residence there in a list of 76 entries.
But the track marked only the 12th time he had made the pop list, and only one of the previous 11 had made the Top 40, when “Rock Me Baby” climbed to No.34 in 1964. The new single gave BB his best showing since then, but it still only made No.72, in a nine-week run. It would be another three years before “The Thrill Is Gone” changed everything; in the meantime, the Blues Boy was still paying the cost to be the boss.
“Don’t Answer The Door“ is on Definitive Greatest Hits, which can be bought here.