A.K.A. : B. B. King
Instruments: Electric Guitar, Vocals
Life span: 1925-????
Style Synopsis: Style is the word that describes the way that B.B. He uses signature tremolo and “T-Bone Walker” influenced jazzy sounding blues riffs. Also, in words of B.B., “I don’t do no chords”. He can also tell when muted notes are more necessary than full notes.
For as long as anyone can remember, B.B. King has reigned as the “King Of Blues.” With his Gibson guitar named Lucille, along with his unique vocals, king has put out some of the most down-home sounds in African-American music.
B.B. King, the world’s greatest blues singer had- like a lot of people- had some hard times. Born in 1925 in Itta Bena, Mississippi., King lived with his mother until he was nine. When his mother died he lived alone, taking care of himself by working in cotton fields that were owned by the people who had employed his mother, this was the time of the Depression , and the period when he started learning the guitar. He worked as a disc jockey at the Memphis radio station WDIA in 1949, where he picked up the stage name “The Beale Street Blues Boy,” He was influenced by jazz guitarist Charlie Christian, as well as countless other blues musicians including T-Bone Walker.
Among the many songs he eternalized, “The Thrill Is Gone” is perhaps his most enduring, he aslo won several Grammy’s for that song and the albums “There Must Be a Better World Somewhere”, “My Guitar Sings The Blues”, “Live at San Quentin”, “Live at the Apollo”, and “Blues Summit”. He received along with other numerous awards the Grammy Lifetime Achievments Award in 1987.
Still on the road and recording for MCA, with Lucille , B.B. King is still showing the world the blues is here to stay.
King started his career as a teenage professional musician on the streets of Memphis during the 1940s. He played gospel and blues on street corners for tips. Concerned in whether or not to play gospel or Blues, he decided to integrate both styles. In 1951, B. B. King had his first hit song ,”3 O’clock Blues.” The song was so successful, record producers signed the young man from his Memphis, Tenn. home and send him to New York City, where he shortened his stage name from Beale Street Blues Boy to “B.B.”
Over the past forty years, King has been called the master of blue using his many styles of gospel, jazz, and blues, which has influenced all blues and rock guitarists.
At 66, King remains playing. He does about 300 concert dates annually, and released his first studio album including two LP’s.
Few Artists who have become as popular as B. B., have striven to become better, and that is why many people believe that he is a living legend. King writes music with the same determination that he did as a teenager yet, he still says that after 40 years he hasn’t
found the perfect sound.
As the leader of the music he creates, he openly admits that the blues of the 90’s just isn’t the same as the music he created while working on the plantation in the 1930’s. The roots of any blues-based electric guitarist cn be traced back to King, whether they know it or not. He quotes, “It’s changed quite a bit from the way that we’ve known it to be. You don’t find as many straight acoustic guitars as we used to. We find more, today, people playing electric guitars and electric blues. You have today blues superstars.”
King’s music has had a tremendous impact on every electric blues guitarists including Buddy Guy, Freddie King, Albert King, and Otis Rush. Inturn these players have inspired many rock guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Eric Clapton. Though his 70s and 80s records are often burdened by over-production, King has not recorded an embarrasing album-and he’s released more than 50.
As a songwriter, guitarist, singer, legend, and performer, many wonder which he enjoys most, he will usually just reply, “All I do is play Lucille,” while, pointing toward his Gibson guitar. Also people wonder why he still plays since he is quite old, and the answer to that question ins’t because he wants more money or, he wants the publicity, its because thats what he likes doing and thats how he got to where he is in the first place.