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B. B. King

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B.B. King
B.B. King, 2009.jpg
Background information
Birth name Riley B. King
Born September 16, 1925 (1925-09-16) (age 94)
Indianola, Mississippi, US
Genres Blues
Instruments Guitar, vocals
Years active 1948 – present
Labels Geffen/Interscope/Universal, Bullet Records, RPM Records, Crown, ABC, MCA, Reprise/Warner Bros., Virgin/EMI

B. B. King (born Riley B. King in Mississippi on September 16, 1925) is an American blues guitarist and singer-songwriter. Rolling Stone magazine said that King was the 3rd "Greatest Guitarist of All Time" in 2003.[1]

Early life

He was born in Indianola, Mississippi. His father left the family and his mother was too poor to raise him, and so he came to his grandmother, Elnora Farr, in Kilmichael, Mississippi. There he sang in the gospel choir at Elkhorn Baptist Church. At the age of 15 he bought his first guitar. His idols were T-Bone Walker, but also jazz musicans like Charlie Christian and Django Reinhrad. 1943 he left the town and worked as a tractor driver.[2] He performed on Sonny Boy Williamson's radio program on KWEM in West Memphis, Arkansas and reached a local audience with his sound. For this reason he got appearances in the Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis and later, a ten-minute spot on the Memphis radio station WDIA. This became so popular that it was expanded and became the "Sepia Swing Club." During his work for the radio station he got his nickname "Beale Street Blues Boy" which was later shortened to B.B.[3][4]


In 1949, King began recording songs for RPM Records from Los Angeles. King formed his own band; the B.B. King Review, under the leadership of Millard Lee and went on tours.

Lucille-European Tour 2009
In winter 1949 he played at a dance hall in Twist, Arkansas. The hall was heated by burning barrels filled with kerosine. During his performance two men started a fight knocking over one of them and the hall was burning. Outside he learned that he had left his guitar and he ran inside to get it. Next day he found out that the fight was started over a woman named Lucille. Since that time he named his guitars "Lucille"

In the 1950´s B.B. King became one of the most important blues musicians. He toured regularly. 1956 he gave 352 concerts. Among his hits were "3 O'Clock Blues",[4] "You Know I Love You," "Woke Up This Morning," "Please Love Me," "When My Heart Beats like a Hammer," "Whole Lotta Love," "You Upset Me Baby," "Every Day I Have the Blues", "Sneakin' Around," "Ten Long Years," "Bad Luck," "Sweet Little Angel", "On My Word of Honor," and "Please Accept My Love."

In the 1960 King lost importance for black listeners but could reach the white music fans. A lot of white guitarist like Eric Clapton named him as influence. King played at rock concerts and venues of the hippie culture like the Fillmore West. He also reached #15 in the Us-popcharts with his title "The Thrill Is Gone" .From the 1980s onward he has continued his career, appearing on numerous television shows and performing 300 nights a year. The title "When love comes to town", which he performed together with the rock band U2 introduced him to a younger audience.

Personal life

B.B. King was married two times. The marriages ended because of the burden of more than 200 concerts a year. It is reported that he is father of 15 children.[2] He has lived with Type II diabetes for over twenty years and is a high-profile spokesman in the fight against the disease.

TV and Film

B.B. King has made guest appearances in numerous popular television shows, including The Cosby Show, The Young and the Restless, General Hospital, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Sesame Street, Married... with Children, Sanford and Son, and Touched by an Angel. He has also made a cameo in the movie Spies Like Us. In the movie Blues Brothers 2000 he was the leader of The Louisiana Gator Boys, a bluessupergroup, which battles against the Blues Brothers.

B.B. King`s Blues Club

B.B. Kings Blues Club, Beale Street, Memphis
He is the owner of a chain of restaurants with concert venues in the United States. The first was opened on Beale Street in Memphis 1991.

Honors and awards

B.B. King gets the Presidential Medal of Freedom


Grammy Awards

King was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987.[17] As of 2009, he has won 15 Grammy Awards, of which ten have been the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album :in 2009 (for One Kind Favor), 2005 (B. B. King & Friends: 80), 2003 (for A Christmas Celebration of Hope), 2001 (for Riding with the King), 2000 (for Blues on the Bayou), 1994 (for Blues Summit), 1992 (for Live at the Apollo), 1991 (for Live at San Quentin), 1986 (for My Guitar Sings the Blues) and 1984 (for Blues 'N' Jazz).[16]


Some important albums are:

  • Live at the Regal (1965)
  • Blues Summit (1993) duets with Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, John Lee , Koko Taylor, Etta James, Lowell Fulson, Albert Collins, Ruth Brown, Irma Thomas, Joe Louis Walker
  • Let The Good Times Roll-The Music of Louis Jordan (1999)
  • Riding with the King (2001) with Eric Clapton


  • B.B. King & Joan Baez - Live at "Sing Sing" (2004)
  • Living Legend (2004)
  • Black Blues Experience (2004)
  • Sweet 16 (2004)
  • The Blues Sounds of B.B. King (2004)
  • In Concert (2003)
  • Live By Request (2003)
  • Live at Nicks (2002)
  • Live at Montreux 1993 (?)

For a complete discographie visit MusicBrainz.


  2. 2.0 2.1 B.B. King bio at jazz and blues
  3. History of Rock & Roll. By Thomas E. Larson. Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, Dubuque, Iowa. Copyright 2004. Page 25
  4. 4.0 4.1 Hear B. B. King (music and interviews) on the Pop Chronicles (1969).
  5. "B. B. King" The Blues Foundation Hall of Fame
  6. "B. B. King" Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
  7. "List of National Medal of Arts Recipients". Retrieved 2010-02-17.
  8. "1991 NEA National Heritage Fellowships". Retrieved 2010-02-17.
  9. "Kennedy Center Records". 1925-09-16. Retrieved 2010-02-17.
  10. "List of Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients". Retrieved 2010-02-17.
  11. "Brown University to Confer Nine Honorary Degrees May 27". Retrieved 2010-02-17.
  12. "King of Portland" - Portland Press Herald, May 19, 2008
  13. Tyrangiel, Josh. “The 10 Greatest Electric-Guitar Players,” Time. August 14, 2009. (Retrieved 2011-01-06.)
  14. ""The Blues Heritage" Indianola, Mississippi Chamber of Commerce". Retrieved 2010-02-17.
  15. Mississippi Blues Commission. "B.B. King Birthplace". Retrieved 2 February 2010.
  16. 16.0 16.1
  17. "Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Winners". 2009-02-08. Retrieved 2010-02-17.

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