- NAME: B.B. King
- OCCUPATION: Songwriter, Guitarist, Singer
- BIRTH DATE: September 16, 1925 (Age: 88)
- Did You Know?: B.B. King named his beloved guitar Lucille after a woman he never met who was the cause of a fight that almost cost him his life.
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Itta Bena, Mississippi
- Full Name: Riley B. King
- AKA: B.B. King
- Nickname: King of the Blues
- Nickname: The Beale Street Blues Boy
- ZODIAC SIGN: Virgo
Best Known For
"King of the Blues" B.B. King began as a disc jockey in Memphis before finding fame as a blues and R&B guitarist, with hits like "The Thrill Is Gone."
B.B. King - Lucille (1:37)
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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 World War II, Riley B. King, better known as B.B. King, became a disc jockey in Memphis, Tennessee, 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."
"The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you."
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.
In 1962, King signed with ABC Records, which released Live at the Regal (1965), 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.
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