King, B. B. (1925–)

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B. B. King (1925–)

B. B. King is probably the most popular and successful blues (see entry under 1920s—Music in volume 2) singer and guitarist ever to live. His distinctive style, played on his famous guitar named "Lucille," has influenced countless musicians both in blues and rock and roll (see entry under 1950s—Music in volume 3) music.

Born Riley B. King in rural Mississippi in 1925, "B. B.," as he was known, heard early blues guitarists and singers and learned to play in their style before developing his own. King began his career in Memphis, Tennessee, playing on street corners and at local clubs. In the mid-1940s, he had his own ten-minute show on WDIA radio in Memphis. King began recording singles in 1949 and scored a hit song with "Three O'Clock Blues" in 1951. King toured constantly, often playing more than 340 nights a year, and developed a loyal fan base. In the 1960s and 1970s, he had hits with "The Thrill Is Gone" and the albums Live at the Regal and Live in Cook County Jail. Younger fans discovered King in the late 1980s when he teamed up with Irish rock group U2 on "When Love Comes to Town." In 2000, he recorded the successful Riding with the King with rock musician Eric Clapton (1945–). King continued to play his now-classic sound to blues fans all over the world in more than 200 shows per year at the turn of the century.

—Timothy Berg

For More Information

BB The Official Website. (accessed March 6, 2002).

Danchin, Sebastian. Blues Boy: The Life and Music of B. B. King. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1998.

Sawyer, Charles. The Arrival of B. B. King: The Authorized Biography. New York: Da Capo Press, 1980.