The Passing of a King
Blues guitarist B.B. King is a legend known around the world for his storytelling, singing, guitar playing, diabetes advocacy, and the beautiful Gibson guitar he affectionately refers to as Lucille. He was a new kind of blues musician with his 3-piece suit and distinctive voice, he brought joy to the hearts of many.
Born Riley B. King in 1925 in Mississippi, the son of a sharecropper, he worked as a sharecropper, houseboy, and farmhand himself before his musical gifts took him out of the fields and on the road. He was a performer’s performer, and loved his work, performing sold-out shows well into his 80’s. His struggles with diabetes slowed him down in recent years, and he was receiving hospice care in his Las Vegas home when he passed away Thursday evening, May 14 2015, at 9:40 pm, according to his attorney Brent Bryson.
He was introduced to the guitar as a young boy and later learned to play more on his own, developing his signature style. When he first arrived on the Memphis music scene he worked as a DJ, he was dubbed the Beale Street Blues Boy, which in time shortened to B.B., his first hit was during that period, in 1951 he recorded “Three O’Clock Blues.” He gained a following of white fans in the 1960’s, which expanded when he opened for bigger acts like the Rolling Stones, he had a universal appeal uncommon for blues artists at that time.
He won 15 Grammy awards during his lifetime, was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1984, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and in 1990 received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. He received an award from President George W. Bush, the Presidential medal of Freedom. In 2009 he won his last Grammy, his first was in 1971.
He was mentioned in several books about blues music in America, interviewed countless times, and often performed over 300 shows a year. He said that people all over the world have problems, and as long as there are problems, blues music will never die. A legacy of more than 50 albums, 15 children (11 are living still) and a mentor to guitar greats such as Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, Otis Rush, and Buddy Guy. Well played Mr. King, well played.