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B.B. King & Eric Clapton

Universally hailed as the king of the blues, the legendary B.B. King was without a doubt the single most important electric guitarist of the last half of the 20th century. His bent notes and staccato picking style influenced legions of contemporary bluesmen, while his gritty and confident voice -- capable of wringing every nuance from any lyric -- provided a worthy match for his passionate playing. Between 1951 and 1985, King notched an impressive 74 entries on Billboard's R&B charts, and he was one of the few full-fledged blues artists to score a major pop hit when his 1970 smash "The Thrill Is Gone" crossed over to mainstream success (engendering memorable appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and American Bandstand). After his hit-making days, he partnered with such musicians as Eric Clapton and U2 and managed his own acclaimed solo career, all the while maintaining his immediately recognizable style on the electric guitar.

The seeds of Riley B. King's enduring talent were sown deep in the blues-rich Mississippi Delta, where he was born in 1925 near the town of Itta Bena. He was shuttled between his mother's home and his grandmother's residence as a child, his father having left the family when King was very young. The youth put in long days working as a sharecropper and devoutly sang the Lord's praises at church before moving to Indianola -- another town located in the heart of the Delta -- in 1943.

Country and gospel music left an indelible impression on King's musical mindset as he matured, along with the styles of blues greats (T-Bone Walker and Lonnie Johnson) and jazz geniuses (Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt). In 1946, he set off for Memphis to look up his cousin, a rough-edged country blues guitarist named Bukka White. For ten invaluable months, White taught his eager young relative the finer points of playing blues guitar. After returning briefly to Indianola and the sharecropper's eternal struggle with his wife Martha, King returned to Memphis in late 1948. This time, he stuck around for a while.

King was soon broadcasting his music live via Memphis radio station WDIA, a frequency that had only recently switched to a pioneering all-black format. Local club owners preferred that their attractions also held down radio gigs so they could plug their nightly appearances on the air. When WDIA DJ Maurice "Hot Rod" Hulbert exited his air shift, King took over his record-spinning duties. At first tagged "The Peptikon Boy" (an alcohol-loaded elixir that rivaled Hadacol) when WDIA put him on the air, King's on-air handle became "The Beale Street Blues Boy," later shortened to Blues Boy and then a far snappier B.B.

King had a four-star breakthrough year in 1949. He cut his first four tracks for Jim Bulleit's Bullet Records (including a number entitled "Miss Martha King" after his wife), then signed a contract with the Bihari Brothers' Los Angeles-based RPM Records. King cut a plethora of sides in Memphis over the next couple of years for RPM, many of them produced by a relative newcomer named Sam Phillips (whose Sun Records was still a distant dream at that point in time). Phillips was independently producing sides for both the Biharis and Chess; his stable also included Howlin' Wolf, Rosco Gordon, and fellow WDIA personality Rufus Thomas.

The Biharis also recorded some of King's early output themselves, erecting portable recording equipment wherever they could locate a suitable facility. King's first national R&B chart-topper in 1951, "Three O'Clock Blues" (previously waxed by Lowell Fulson), was cut at a Memphis YMCA. King's Memphis running partners included vocalist Bobby Bland, drummer Earl Forest, and ballad-singing pianist Johnny Ace. When King hit the road to promote "Three O'Clock Blues," he handed the group, known as the Beale Streeters, over to Ace.

It was during this era that King first named his beloved guitar "Lucille." Seems that while he was playing a joint in a little Arkansas town called Twist, fisticuffs broke out between two jealous suitors over a lady. The brawlers knocked over a kerosene-filled garbage pail that was heating the place, setting the room ablaze. In the frantic scramble to escape the flames, King left his guitar inside. He foolishly ran back in to retrieve it, dodging the flames and almost losing his life. When the smoke had cleared, King learned that the lady who had inspired such violent passion was named Lucille. Plenty of Lucilles have passed through his hands since; Gibson has even marketed a B.B.-approved guitar model under the name.

The 1950s saw King establish himself as a perennially formidable hitmaking force in the R&B field. Recording mostly in L.A. (the WDIA air shift became impossible to maintain by 1953 due to King's endless touring) for RPM and its successor Kent, King scored 20 chart items during that musically tumultuous decade, including such memorable efforts as "You Know I Love You" (1952); "Woke Up This Morning" and "Please Love Me" (1953); "When My Heart Beats like a Hammer," "Whole Lotta' Love," and "You Upset Me Baby" (1954); "Every Day I Have the Blues" (another Fulson remake), the dreamy blues ballad "Sneakin' Around," and "Ten Long Years" (1955); "Bad Luck," "Sweet Little Angel," and a Platters-like "On My Word of Honor" (1956); and "Please Accept My Love" (first cut by Jimmy Wilson) in 1958. King's guitar attack grew more aggressive and pointed as the decade progressed, influencing a legion of up-and-coming axemen across the nation.

In 1960, King's impassioned two-sided revival of Joe Turner's "Sweet Sixteen" became another mammoth seller, and his "Got a Right to Love My Baby" and "Partin' Time" weren't far behind. But Kent couldn't hang onto a star like King forever (and he may have been tired of watching his new LPs consigned directly into the 99-cent bins on the Biharis' cheapo Crown logo). King moved over to ABC-Paramount Records in 1962, following the lead of Lloyd Price, Ray Charles, and before long, Fats Domino.

In November of 1964, the guitarist cut his seminal Live at the Regal album at the fabled Chicago theater and excitement virtually leaped out of the grooves. That same year, he enjoyed a minor hit with "How Blue Can You Get," one of his many signature tunes. "Don't Answer the Door" in 1966 and "Paying the Cost to Be the Boss" two years later were Top Ten R&B entries, and the socially charged and funk-tinged "Why I Sing the Blues" just missed achieving the same status in 1969.

Across-the-board stardom finally arrived in 1969 for the deserving guitarist, when he crashed the mainstream consciousness in a big way with a stately, violin-drenched minor-key treatment of Roy Hawkins' "The Thrill Is Gone" that was quite a departure from the concise horn-powered backing King had customarily employed. At last, pop audiences were convinced that they should get to know King better: not only was the track a number-three R&B smash, it vaulted to the upper reaches of the pop lists as well.

King was one of a precious few bluesmen to score hits consistently during the 1970s, and for good reason: he wasn't afraid to experiment with the idiom. In 1973, he ventured to Philadelphia to record a pair of huge sellers, "To Know You Is to Love You" and "I Like to Live the Love," with the same silky rhythm section that powered the hits of the Spinners and the O'Jays. In 1976, he teamed up with his old cohort Bland to wax some well-received duets. And in 1978, he joined forces with the jazzy Crusaders to make the gloriously funky "Never Make Your Move Too Soon" and an inspiring "When It All Comes Down." Occasionally, the daring deviations veered off-course; Love Me Tender, an album that attempted to harness the Nashville country sound, was an artistic disaster.

Although his concerts were consistently as satisfying as anyone in the field (King asserted himself as a road warrior of remarkable resiliency who gigged an average of 300 nights a year), King tempered his studio activities somewhat. Nevertheless, his 1993 MCA disc Blues Summit was a return to form, as King duetted with his peers (John Lee Hooker, Etta James, Fulson, Koko Taylor) on a program of standards. Other notable releases from that period include 1999's Let the Good Times Roll: The Music of Louis Jordan and 2000's Riding with the King, a collaboration with Eric Clapton. King celebrated his 80th birthday in 2005 with the star-studded album 80, which featured guest spots from such varied artists as Gloria Estefan, John Mayer, and Van Morrison. Live was issued in 2008; that same year, King released an engaging return to pure blues, One Kind Favor, which eschewed the slick sounds of his 21st century work for a stripped-back approach. A long overdue career-spanning box set of King's over 60 years of touring, recording, and performing, Ladies and Gentlemen...Mr. B.B. King, appeared in 2012. Late in 2014, King was forced to cancel several shows due to exhaustion; he was later hospitalized twice and entered hospice care in the spring. He died in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 14, 2015. ~ Bill Dahl
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Riding With The King

1. Riding With The King

2. Ten Long Years

3. Key To The Highway

4. Marry You

5. Three O'clock Blues

6. Help The Poor

7. I Wanna Be

8. Worried Life Blues

9. Days Of Old

10. When My Heart Beats Like A Hammer

12. Come Rain Or Come Shine

Comments

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Sweet home Chicago
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Cool cool. Cold beer on my Friday with excellent jazz.��
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O am blessed to listen to such great music
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May we all find that God-given gift as B.B. did. He will be missed dearly .
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This talent will NEVER go stale....... t h a n k s for sharing your gift BB !!
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tonydale48
I listen I'm in heaven
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Nudnik
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LIKE !!!!!!!!!!!! !
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So glad those two got together!!
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Luv the story of how he named Lucille. Also, how he came to be B.B. from The Beale Street Blues Boy. His singing style and rhythmic strumming is iconic and stands the test of time.
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WOW! So this is Soul music, BBKing is Intense...cl o s e your eyes and feel deeply. If You Love Me is a beautiful song XOXO
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Saw him live in Davenport, Iowa in a church hall. I have seen a lot of bands, but BB was one of the best.
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People who loves, talk
People who hates, talk
Bad is bad, good is good, and you know what, I am not going to worried any more!!!
The message?????
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Only the best!
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He will never be replaced
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King still lives !!
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1.hnplr73
Back in '77' I was permitted to chat with Mr.King back-stage Thomasboro Ill. He was such a great inspiration, and most, most humble. He struck me as like a man walking on a gravel road bare-foot, & JUST SO HAPPY TO BE ALIVE, THANKING GOD, ALL THE WAY TO BE ALIVE!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
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BLUESPOWER
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You people dont know shot bout these f**kin blues i die with these blues i bleed tooooooooooo o o
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We all love you going be so much .thank you for all your song
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I kept this disc in my car for at least a month
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melap247
B.B.King R.I.P. Ill miss u homie..ur a legen..ching a o s me gusta un chingo los BLUES..gone miss u..see u soon bro..MEX.Lov e s B.B.Kings music..
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Mrpens Bobby
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johtd81
Ronnie James Dio was here 2/25/16
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Who?
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geraldine.eh i n g e r
U have to love this ,,,
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HAPPY HOLIDAYS Pandora listeners!!! Wow the blues are rocking this song from BB and Eric real Music! Enjoy
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Blues feed my sole thank you BB
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He always said he loved to sing The thrill is Gone. The thrill will never be gone hearing him sing it.
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Best of the best thank. You for all your good music
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If u dont love blues u dont know music
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Awesome!!! Now that's great Blues...Love it...PEACE
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The thrill is not gone he still lives on
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His powerful singing was unbelievable . Even to his last days he could deliver a song like nobody else. Blessed to see BB in concert three times and never failed to amaze!
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need lyrics
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ghbatindy
RIP but may your music continue to inspire
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Wow, this track is so awesome, I got chills
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B B IS THE KING OF BLUES SAD WE HAD TO SAY GOOD-BY.
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Got it ... Good soul !! Lightning is YOUR HEART .. Did u know?
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LIKE !!!!!!!!!!!
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Another Great One Gone your music lives on i Will be listening
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Your Free BB, Free at last. Be listenin for ya when my # comes.

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They need to do a bio movie on BB. Just like they did Ray. These guys need to be remembered they are so much a part of our heritage for music. Somebody that has the means and access to his archives, maybe Gary Clark could play BB. Just a thought !
Come on Eric C. put this together for us die hard blues fans. God Blessed us with BB he deserves for his story to be told.
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Love both Eric and The man of blues . That can play all day and night And will never need any more then the music of Both
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I MISS YOU SO MUCH CRY EVERY DAY. B . LOVE GWEN MITCHELL
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Z
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The king of blues Mr. B.B King's music lives on for ever.
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What a great talented man, artist, musician. His voice, music & legacy will live on. Best blues artist around. He's certainly missed.
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His music give me chills! Mr. King RIP! I can listen to him for hours!
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pat.onines
He's putting the band back together!
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