Happy birthday B.B. King!



B.B. King (born September 16, 1925) is an American blues guitarist and songwriter. He is ranked no. 6 in Rolling Stone's 100 greatest guitarists of all time. His sound was hugely important in developing the guitar's role, marked by left-hand vibrato and pronounced, voice-like guitar solos.



King was born Riley B. King on a cotton plantation just outside of Berclair, Mississippi to Albert King and Nora Ella Farr. After his parents divorced, his mother was too financially unstable to raise King, so ultimately he was raised by his grandmother.


First exposed to music at Elkhorn Baptist Church, he sang in the gospel choir. By the time he was 12, he purchased his first guitar. He eventually began performing with the Famous St. John's Quartet in churches and on the radio. He followed his mother's first cousin, Bukka White, to Memphis, Tennessee, and stayed with him for 10 months. (Image source)

By 1948, he had gone home and come back to Memphis, and began performing on Sonny Boy Williamson's radio program on KWEM. He soon cultivated a following and this led to gigs at Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis. Later, a ten-minute segment on WDIA became a regular spot, Sepia Swing Club, as a result of its popularity. He himself, became a disc jockey, which is how he gained the name Beale Street Blues Boy, later shortened to Blues Boy and finally to B.B.


In 1949, King signed a recording contract with RPM Records and formed the band the B.B. King Review, which consisted of Calvin Owens and Kenneth Sands (trumpet), Lawrence Burdin (alto saxophone), George Coleman (tenor saxophone), Floyd Newman (baritone saxophone), Millard Lee (piano), George Joyner (bass) and Earl Forest and Ted Curry (drums). This marked the beginning of his 12-year relationship with the recording company, and of a 30-year performing career in which he averaged 300 shows a year.


By the 1950s, King was one of the most influential R&B musicians, with some of his notable hits including "3 O'Clock Blues," "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," and "Every Day I Have the Blues."





In 1962, King signed with ABC Records. He soon released Live at the Regal (1965), recorded at the Regal Theater in Chicago, Illinois.

In 1970, King's version of "The Thrill Is Gone" earned him a Grammy.

By 1979, King had become the first blues musician to tour the Soviet Union.



Throughout the last three decades, King has remained a prolific performer. He has collaborated with the likes of Eric Clapton, Elton John, Sheryl Crow, Van Morrison and Bonnie Raitt.



He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush in 2006.




Selected Works




Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Tuesday, 16 September 2014
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