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B.B. King

Universally hailed as the reigning king of the blues, the legendary B.B. King is without a doubt the single most important electric guitarist of the last half century. His bent notes and staccato picking style have influenced legions of contemporary bluesmen, while his gritty and confident voice -- capable of wringing every nuance from any lyric -- provides 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). Since that time, he has partnered with such musicians as Eric Clapton and U2 while managing 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. ~ Bill Dahl, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Mr. B.B. King

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Track List: Keep It Coming (Radio Single)

Comments

GZZZzzzzzzzz !!!!!!!!!!
Classic fine blues by the Masterclass
orcana
It did not work motion 1 !!!!!!!!!!!= : O
mitoyo1
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you have started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in the next 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in big letters this is so scary because it actually works
we're pregnant
I'm gone on my BB King. He's like my post modern Blueberry Hill.
dragonlady60 8 8
The thrill is gone........ .
Anytime is the right time for BB King. ;-D
talklessnes
I got a good mind to go shopping
you want to pass on you're good ole' memories, maybe spell like you you know what the words mean. Cool is the way the song is sung, means something American Old school. Take your wuz and dat and shove it!
My granmas name wuz cora b holloway at da time & she was from itta bena they where friends back then rip to my sweet & loving granma & my dad. And i love da blues da blues is alrite and mr king is one of my top notch favorite blues singers i rep da mississippi delta born and raised god bless u mr. BB King and i'm sending love all the way from da Delta
My dad told me wen i wuz a child that my granma & mr.bb king. Attended the same school and he also mention how da mr king. Was sweet on this pretty black girl back then cora t
Genius at its finest. I love. You BB King!
I'm only 30years old, but I'm lucky to know great music. i have had the pleasure of seeing many artist perform live. By far B B KING is still my favorite I have ever gotten to see play live. Love his music!
Fantastic music and the artist is to die for!
I'm 58 yrs old and I'm still feeling the blues when BB start playing guitar singing it out with everything he's got to give, I feel everything everything he's given us. I love you BB King.
A true LIVING LEGEND...Wit h BB, The thrill is ON!
Yes yes bb king i love you...
28 and feelin the blues sing on cant get enough
B u get better every song. U know I
PREGIEST SMILE
King of the blues.
L i. L. J o h n n y. K e e p u p m r b b k i n g s o u n d g o o d
Go head bb
jamesdabear3 3 8 7
one of the all time greats
Thr Thrill is Gone I love that song
I am for Mississippi love the blues go B B King
L i l j o h n n y l o n g l i v i n g t h e y K i n g b b k i n g o f t h e y b l u e
L i l j o h n n y k i n g l e a v e o n m r. B b k i n g s w e e t s i x t e e n
BB King is the definition of modern master. Calling him iconic sells him short. One of Americas beat storytellers . His music is capable
of RAW emotion


Pain, joy, lust anger. Just amazing
L i. L. J o. H. N. N. Y. L. U. V. B b. k. I. N. G. M. U. S. I. C E. V. E. R. Y. S. E. N t. I. W. A. S. 1 4 y.e a r. O. L. D. S t. I. L. L. L. U. V. H. I. S. M u s i c
#1jeffdanger p r i v a t e s w i n e
L. I. L. J. O. H. N. N. Y. R e.a.l. K. I n. G. B. b. k. I. N. G. O.f. T. H. E. Y. B. l u e. T. H. R. I. L. L. I. S g.o.n.i.n.g
L i. L. J. O. H. N. N. Y. L. O. V. E. K. I n. G. M. U. S. I. C. A. L. W. A. Y. L o. V. E. B. b k. I. N. G. M u. S i. C
L i l j.o h n n y. L o v e. T h e y. M r. B b k.i. N g
L. I. L. J. O h n n y. H e r e. T h e y. R e a. L. K i n g. C. A l l. M r. B b. k i. N. G
L. I. L. J o h n n y. S a y. R e a l. K i n g. S t i l l. L i v e. A n d. T h e y. C a l l. H. I. M. M r. B b k i n g
L. I. L. J o h n n y. S a y. B b i s. T h e y. R e a l. K i n g
L i l. J o h n n y. L o v e b b k i n g. M u s i c
L i l L o v e s o m e t h i r l l i s g o n i n g b b k i n g n
very nice
LOVE
Great on Acid at filmore God told me to not take anymore and put my soul backin. Mind, not God! Fix you up. Camping portola Park Ca. Gods campground full of Redwood trees.Look for God, too.
My husband love's this song bcuz he says that's how he feels......
L i l. J. O h n n.y l o v e b b k i n g
L o t r e s e p c t f o r e k i n g o f b l u e s t h i s e f r o m l i l j o h n n y
Ze king
B. B. KING. WOOOOOOOOOOO O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O W ! ! ! ! ! :-D
Love BB--I too, born in the Mississippi Delta. BB's Music will live for ever...Long live The King!
BB King is the man l love his music,l could listen to his "WHEN IM NOT AT HOME" over and over.But when l think of the KING OF BLUES,its always B.B. running almost neck to neck with B.B.BLAND & BLAND wins it but not by much
There's a hole-in tha wall, I heard him too. 14y 1m
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