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"King of the Blues" B.B. King began as a disc jockey in Memphis before finding fame as an R&B guitarist, with hits like "The Thrill Is Gone."
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A sudden blazing bar fire in Twist, Arkansas leads to the naming of one of the world's most famous guitars, B.B. King's "Lucille."
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After serving in WWII, Riley B. King became a disc jockey in Memphis, where he was dubbed "The Beale Street Blues Boy." That nickname was shortened to "B.B.," and the guitarist cut his first record in 1949. He spent the next decades recording and touring, playing more than 300 shows a year. King has worked with artists from rock, pop and country backgrounds. He won his 14th Grammy Award in 2006.
"Water from the white fountain didn't taste any better than from the black fountain."
A singer and guitarist born into a sharecropping family on September 16, 1925, B.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. 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." In 1962, King signed with ABC Records, which released Live at the Regal, a benchmark blues concert album. In 1969 he released his biggest hit single, "The Thrill is Gone." The first bluesman to tour the Soviet Union in 1979, by this time he had also become the first bluesman to enter the pop mainstream, making regular appearances in Las Vegas, Nevada, and on network television.
In 1987, King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
One of music's best-regarded performers, King picked up the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album in 2005. The following year, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. The legendary singer and guitarist also became the subject of his own museum, which opened its doors in 2008. The B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola, Mississippi, is dedicated to King's music, the music which influenced him, and the history of the delta area.
Also in 2008, King released his latest studio album One Kind Favor to critical acclaim. He did his own take on songs by John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker and Lonnie Johnson, earning yet another Grammy Award for his efforts. In February 2012, King played a special gig at the White House with Buddy Guy and others. He and his fellow performers were accompanied by President Barack Obama on the song "Sweet Home Chicago."
Now in his late 80s, King continues to draw crowds whenever he plays. He tours the world, giving more than 250 concerts per year. And no matter where he is, King has a guitar in his hands. Known as "Lucille," his guitar earned this nickname in the late 1940s. He was playing in Twist, Arkansas, when a fight broke out in the club. A fire started, and everyone except King headed for the door. He went back inside to rescue his instrument, which he named after the woman who had been at the center of the fight in the club.
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