The Thrill Is On is the unique true story of two individuals: B.B. King, the legendary Blues entertainer, and Michael Zanetis, a young musician and entrepreneur. This film is the story of how their lives became intertwined in the 1980-90s and the significant impact they had on each other. It is the story of their struggle in an America that provided opportunity for both men and where truly any goal can be achieved and anything is possible.
This is the story of B.B. King, who rose from picking cotton in the most extremes of poverty to perform for royalty and be recognized as the “King of the Blues” worldwide. It is also the story of a small town boy raised in the farmlands of Indiana in the 1960s, Michael Zanetis , the grandson of Greek immigrants, who through hard work and determination achieved his dreams of excellence by performing and recording with some of the world’s greatest musicians. This story depicts the dynamic lives of these two men and their extraordinary friendship.
From an early age, Michael Zanetis was banging on the drums. With the help of a mentor from the most unlikely of sources…Sister Mary Sarah, a Nun at the Catholic school he attended (who could rock n’ roll on the piano like Billy Preston) … Michael found his niche early in life behind a set of drums. Then one day the needle hit the scratchy vinyl and his life was forever changed as he was introduced to the music of B.B. King. After hearing “The Thrill Is Gone,” Michael knew exactly what he had to do.
Risking it all, he packed up his drums and headed to California with his girlfriend Denice, and their aptly named dog, Hollywood. Partnering with his father, and his uncle, a well-known record producer from Nashville, Michael assembled a band made up of some of the world’s greatest session musicians.
The Michael Zanetis Band, featuring Larry Carlton and Victor Feldman, recorded jam sessions that were soon being played on major LA radio stations. Life seemed unbelievably good and then suddenly and unexpectedly Michael lost his partner, his greatest supporter and best friend, his father.
Not long after, fate guided Michael to a B.B. King concert. He was awestruck as he watched BB’s live performance of “The Thrill Is Gone.” After the show, Michael asked a young man selling T-shirts if he would give Michael’s album to BB. Much to his surprise, he was escorted backstage and into the presence of the man who from then on would become a mentor, an inspiration, and his true friend.
Over the years, these two lives dramatically intersect. From the countless B.B. King performances, the Grand Opening of Michael’s legendary Supper Club in Southern California, and Michael’s remarkable promise, on the night BB’s father died, to get BB a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, there were many poignant moments. Eventually, after seven long years of persistence, Michael got the call that his efforts had finally succeeded…and BB got his Star.
On the night before the Star ceremony, Michael had a lifelong dream come true. His friend and mentor, the King of the Blues, invited Michael to join him on stage at a concert to accompany him on the drums. With sticks in hand, Michael’s eyes met B.B. King’s on stage and astonishingly they began making music together!
The Thrill Is On is the true story of faith, friendship and reaching for the stars that will entertain and inspire!
For more than half a century, Riley B. King – better known as B.B. King – defined the Blues for a worldwide audience. Since he started recording in the 1940’s, he released over 74 albums, many of them classics. His reign as King of the Blues was as long as that of any monarch on earth. Yet B.B. King continued to wear his crown well until the age of 89.
Soon after his number one hit, “Three O’Clock Blues”, B.B. began touring nationally. In 1956, B.B. and his band played an astonishing 342 one-night stands. From the chitlin circuit with its small-town cafes, juke joints, and country dance halls to rock palaces, symphony concert halls, universities, resort hotels and amphitheaters, nationally and internationally, B.B. has become the most renowned blues musician of the past 60 years. Over the years, B.B. developed one of the world’s most identifiable guitar styles. His economy, his every-note-counts phrasing, has been a model for thousands of players, from Eric Clapton and George Harrison to Jeff Beck
B.B. was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1984 and into the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He received NARAS’ Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 1987 and has 15 Grammy wins as well. He has received honorary doctorates from numerous colleges and universities. B.B. has received both the Presidential Medal of the Arts and in 2006 the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that can be bestowed on an American citizen.
In the feature film The Thrill Is On we see the compelling, true story of how the efforts of a B.B. King fan leads to B.B. King being the first Blues artist to receive a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1990. “This means more to me than all my Grammy’s because I can share it with my fans” says B.B. to reporters at the Star ceremony. He continues, “I never dreamed that it would ever happen. Now, just to think about that long after there’s no more B.B. King alive…long after, people will be able to walk by and say ‘yeah, I remember the guy’.” B.B.’s Star is a permanent symbol of the love and friendship between a living legend and a fan that serves as the cornerstone of our story.
My vision for this film is that it will take it’s rightful place in American Cinema straddling and alongside the Musical Biographies, Hollywood Themed, Inspirational, Motivational, American Underdog Movies that audiences have enjoyed forever.
The one true aspect of the film that will stand at the center is music. Music has the power to heal, inspire, entertain, and teach. It is this confluence of attributes and others that Blues Music and B.B. King the entertainer, philosopher, and traveler embodies. It fills major cracks in Michael’s life and then forces us to look inward and to challenge ourselves to sing out the songs of our lives with joy and redemption.
– Michael Zanetis, Producer & Writer