B.B. King biography
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.
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.
Acclaimed Musical Artist
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 his signature guitar "Lucille" in his hands.