” Riley B. King (born September 16, 1925), known by the stage name B.B. King, is an American blues musician, singer, songwriter, and guitarist.
Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at No. 6 on its 2011 list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time (previously ranked No. 3 in the 2003 edition of the same list), and he was ranked No. 17 in Gibson’s “Top 50 Guitarists of All Time”.According to Edward M. Komara, King “introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending and shimmering vibrato that would influence virtually every electric blues guitarist that followed.”King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He is considered one of the most influential blues musicians of all time, earning the nickname “The King of Blues”, and one of the “Three Kings of the Blues Guitar” (along with Albert King and Freddie King). King is also known for performing tirelessly throughout his musical career, appearing at 250-300 concerts per year until his seventies. In 1956 it was noted that he appeared at 342 shows. King continues to appear at 100 shows a year.
Over the years, King has developed one of the world’s most identifiable guitar styles. He borrowed from Blind Lemon Jefferson, T-Bone Walker and others, integrating his precise and complex vocal-like string bends and his left hand vibrato, both of which have become indispensable components of rock guitarists’ vocabulary. His economy and phrasing has been a model for thousands of players. King has mixed blues, jazz, swing, mainstream pop and jump into a unique sound. In King’s words, “When I sing, I play in my mind; the minute I stop singing orally, I start to sing by playing Lucille.”
” A singer and guitarist born into a sharecropping family on September 16, 1925, in Itta Bena, Mississippi, B.B. King—born Riley B. King—became one of the best-known blues performers, an important consolidator of blues styles, and a primary model for rock guitarists. Following his service in the U.S. Army, he began his career as a disc jockey in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was dubbed “the Beale Street Blues Boy.” That nickname was soon shortened to “B.B.”
King made his first recording in 1949, and the next year began a 12-year-long association with Kent/RPM/Modern, for which he recorded a string of rhythm and blues hits, including “You Know I Love You,” “Woke Up This Morning” and “Three O’Clock Blues,” his first national hit. He also toured the nightclub circuit continuously, averaging more than 300 shows annually for over 30 years. His style of music earned him the title “King of the Blues.”
Coincidentally, the year that King made his first recording was also the same year that he named his beloved guitar. King attended a dance in Twist, Arkansas, that had a barrel lit with kerosene in the middle of the dance floor, used to keep the crowd warm late at night. While there, a fight broke out and the barrel was knocked over, causing a fire to spread throughout the venue. Everyone evacuated, including King, but he rushed back inside to retrieve his prized guitar. Luckily, he managed to escape with his guitar as the building collapsed around him. King later learned that the fight erupted because of a woman who worked at the venue named Lucille. From then on, King named his guitar “Lucille” to remind himself never to do anything so foolish again.”
” After serving briefly in the army, King moved in with his cousin Booker (Bukka) White, also a blues guitarist. King’s attempts to copy Bukka’s playing helped him develop his own style. He sought out Sonny Boy Williamson, who had a radio show on WDIA in West Memphis, and asked to play a song for him. Williamson was so impressed with King that he offered King his own radio show and a chance to play regularly at Miss Annie’s 16th Street Grill. King was able to advertise his upcoming concerts on the radio, and soon he and his trio had become popular. Known on the radio as the “Beale Street Blues Boy,” which was shortened to “Bee-Bee,” and then to his famous initials, King decided he wanted to make records.”
” King was signed to Bullet Records and in 1949 recorded four songs at the radio station, including “Miss Martha King” and “I’ve Got the Blues.” He also continued to perform in the area. Musician and talent scout Ike Turner (1931–) connected King with the Kent/Modern/RPM record label, and King’s King’s 1951 single for his new label, “Three O’Clock Blues,” became a hit. He scored several other hits during these years, and by the mid-1950s he was playing about three hundred shows a year. He would maintain this schedule for over twenty years.”
” The 1950s saw King establish himself as a perennially formidable hitmaking force in the R&B field. Recording mostly in L.A. (the WDIA air shift became impossible to maintain by 1953 due to King‘s endless touring) for RPM and its successor Kent, King scored 20 chart items during that musically tumultuous decade, including such memorable efforts as “You Know I Love You” (1952); “Woke Up This Morning” and “Please Love Me” (1953); “When My Heart Beats like a Hammer,” “Whole Lotta’ Love,” and “You Upset Me Baby” (1954); “Every Day I Have the Blues” (another Fulson remake), the dreamy blues ballad “Sneakin’ Around,” and “Ten Long Years” (1955); “Bad Luck,” “Sweet Little Angel,” and a Platters-like “On My Word of Honor” (1956); and “Please Accept My Love” (first cut by Jimmy Wilson) in 1958. King‘s guitar attack grew more aggressive and pointed as the decade progressed, influencing a legion of up-and-coming axemen across the nation.”
” In 1960, King‘s impassioned two-sided revival of Joe Turner‘s “Sweet Sixteen” became another mammoth seller, and his “Got a Right to Love My Baby” and “Partin’ Time” weren’t far behind. But Kent couldn’t hang onto a star like King forever (and he may have been tired of watching his new LPs consigned directly into the 99-cent bins on the Biharis‘ cheapo Crown logo). King moved over to ABC-Paramount Records in 1962, following the lead of Lloyd Price, Ray Charles, and before long, Fats Domino.
In November of 1964, the guitarist cut his seminal Live at the Regal album at the fabled Chicago theater and excitement virtually leaped out of the grooves. That same year, he enjoyed a minor hit with “How Blue Can You Get,” one of his many signature tunes. “Don’t Answer the Door” in 1966 and “Paying the Cost to Be the Boss” two years later were Top Ten R&B entries, and the socially charged and funk-tinged “Why I Sing the Blues” just missed achieving the same status in 1969. “
” Although B.B. King was a huge star in the African-American music community by 1965 he was still mostly unknown in the White community. This would change in 1965 when Elektra Records released Paul Butterfield’s first Butterfield Blues Band album, featuring the late Mike Bloomfield on guitar. Bloomfield became a star, almost overnight, and when he was asked where he learned to play the way he did, he replied, “By copying B.B.’s licks.” No one knew who “B.B.” was. And when they asked, “B.B.” who? Bloomfield replied, “The real monster; B.B. King.” After this happened B.B. King’s popularity soared. In short order “The Thrill Is Gone” became a big hit, he stopped having to play the “chitlin circuit” small town black clubs and started playing larger jazz clubs, dining rooms of luxury resort hotels, college concerts and rock palaces such as Filmore East .”
” In 1969 B.B. made his first appearance on network television on Johnny Carson’s the “Tonight Show.” In 1971 B.B. sang and played on Ed Sullivan’s show. By this time Sidney A. Seidenberg had come on board as B.B.’s new manager, he helped re-negotiate his old recording contracts with ABC/MCA records and got him major new bookings.
Since the 1970’s B.B. King’s career has moved at a rapid pace up hill. He has recorded over 75 records, has received seven Grammy Awards, including its Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987, has been inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, 1984, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, 1987, become a Member of the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, 1990, received the Presidential Medal of the Arts, 1990, the Orville H. Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award, 1991, the Kennedy Center Honors, 1995, Presidential Medal of Freedom, American Heritage Fellowship Award by the National Endowment of the Arts, Three NAACP Image Awards, an MTV Video Music Award, 1989/89, a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and many, many more.
He has won 22 Downbeat Music Magazine Readers and Critics Poll Awards, 5 Guitar Player Magazine Awards, he has received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Yale University and fathered 15 children. He has toured with U2 as the super rock group’s opening act and had a song, “When Love Comes to Town, written for him by U2’s star, lead singer, Bono. B.B. King still works between 250 and 300 days a year, calling himself a “music workaholic.” He lives ( when he takes time to rest ) in Las Vegas, Nevada. and currently plays a Gibson ES-355, a guitar he has been playing for over 25 years. He has played all over the world including Africa, Europe, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand and is properly referred to everywhere as “The Ambassador of the Blues,” a title he so richly deserves.”
” B.B. King has influenced the guitar playing of; Eric Clapton, the late Mike Bloomfield, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Albert Collins, Albert King and Jimi Hendrix. He is one of this country’s living, national treasures, a humble but proud, spiritual and beautiful human being, and still “King of the Blues.” “