Riley B. King was born in Indianola, Mississippi, on September 16, 1925. He took the stage name, B. B. King, after being dubbed the "Beale Street Blues Boy," while employed as a disc jockey at WDIA in Memphis in the early 1950s. One of his first recordings, Three O’Clock Blues, was a national success. So popular was the young musician that in 1956 he booked an unbelievable 342 one-night performances!
The story of why King decided to call his guitars "Lucille" dates back to 1949. While King played at a club in Twist, Arkansas, a fight broke out between two men over a woman named Lucille. A barrel of kerosene that was being used to heat the building was knocked over and started a fire. King almost lost his life, while trying to save his guitar. Consequently, he started calling them "Lucille," as a reminder never again to be so foolish. On his 1968 album, Lucille, he wrote, "I've had many guitars—and always call them Lucille. She's taken me a long way, even bought me some fame—most of all, she's kept me alive, being able to eat. Sometimes I get to a place I can't even say nothing—sometimes when I'm blue, seems Lucille tries to help me, calls my name—she's just like a woman, and that's the only one I've had that seemed I could really depend on. I've been married and each time separated—but Lucille never separates from me. She always stayed with me."
Throughout the 1990s as well as the 1980s, 1970s, 1960s and 1950s, there has been only one King of the Blues - Riley B. King, affectionately known as B.B. King. Since B.B. started recording in the late 1940s, he has released over 50 albums many of them considered blues classics, like 1965's definitive live blues album "Live At The Regal", and 1976's collaboration with Bobby "Blue" Bland, "Together For The First Time".
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A Living Legacy
Riley B. King
aka B. B. King (born 16 September, 1925 in Indianola, Mississippi
USA) is a well known American blues guitarist and songwriter.
BB King - A Brief History
Early YearsIn the winter of 1949, King played at a dance hall in Twist, Arkansas. In order to heat the hall, a barrel half-filled with kerosene was lit, a common practice. During a performance, two men began to fight, knocking over the burning barrel and sending burning fuel across the floor. This triggered an evacuation. Once outside, King realized that he had left his guitar inside the burning building. He entered the blaze to retrieve his guitar, a Gibson acoustic. Two people died in the fire. The next day, King discovered that the two men were fighting over a woman named Lucille. King named that first guitar Lucille, as well as every one he owned since that near-fatal experience, "to remind me never to do a thing like that again."
King spent much of his childhood sharing time living with his mother and his grandmother, and working as a sharecropper. King has said he was paid 35 cents for each 100 pounds (45 kg) of cotton he picked before discovering his other talents. At an early age, King developed a love for blues guitarists like T-Bone Walker and Lonnie Johnson and jazz artists like Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt. Soon King was cultivating his own musical skills singing Gospel music in church.
In 1943, King moved to Indianola, Mississippi. Three years later, King moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where he finely tuned his guitar technique with the help of his cousin, country blues guitarist, Bukka White.
Eventually, King began broadcasting his music live on Memphis radio station WDIA, a station that had only recently changed their format to play all-black music which was extremely rare at the time. On the air, King started out using the name The Pepticon Boy, which later became the Beale Street Blues Boy. The name was then shortened to just Blues Boy and, eventually, simply B.B.
Recording YearsIn 1949, King began recording songs under contract with Los Angeles based RPM Records. Many of King's early recordings were produced by Sam Phillips, who would eventually found the legendary Sun Records.
In the 1950s, King became one of the most important names in R&B music, collecting an impressive list of hits under his belt that included songs like "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 1962, King signed to ABC-Paramount Records.
In November of 1964, King recorded the legendary Live at the Regal album at the Regal Theater in Chicago, Illinois.
King first found success outside of the blues market with the 1969 remake of the Roy Hawkins tune, "The Thrill Is Gone," which became a hit on both pop and R&B charts, which is rare for an R&B artist even today. King's mainstream success continued throughout the 1970s with songs like "To Know You Is to Love You" and "I Like to Live the Love." From 1951 to 1985, King appeared on Billboard's R&B charts an amazing 74 times.
Going MainstreamThe 1980s, 1990s and 2000s saw King recording less and less, but maintaining a highly visible and active career appearing on numerous television shows, major motion pictures and performing 300 nights a year. In 1988, he reached a new generation of fans via the single "When Love Comes To Town", together with the Irish band U2. In 2000, King teamed up with guitarist Eric Clapton to record Riding With the King.
In 2004, King was awarded an honorary PHD from the University of Mississippi and the Royal Swedish Academy of Music awarded him the Polar Music Prize, for his "significant contributions to the blues." King had also donated his extensive blues collection to the Ole Miss Center for Southern Studies.
At 80, King has lived a very full and active life. He has been a licensed pilot, a known gambler, and is also a vegetarian, non-drinker and non-smoker. A diabetic for over ten years, King has been a visible spokesman in the fight against diabetes and has appeared in advertisements for diabetes-management products.
(Excerpts and pics were assembled from internet and personal resources.)