B.B. King Biography

Name at birth: Riley B. King

Known as the King of the Blues, guitarist B.B. King has been performing and recording since the 1940s. He grew up sharecropping in Mississippi and learned to play gospel music on the guitar when he was a teenager. In the late 1940s he turned to playing blues and moved to Memphis, Tennessee to start a music career. After popular performances in clubs and on radio, he kicked off his recording career with "Three O'Clock Blues" (1951), a top hit on the R&B charts. King's early records in the '50s produced some R&B hits, but mainstream success eluded him. He and his band toured almost non-stop, performing hundreds of shows a year and building an audience. He finally had breakthrough success in the late 1960s, when white audiences began to discover rock's debt to the blues. Guitarists like Eric Clapton and Keith Richards sang his praises, and King began performing in rock and jazz clubs and had crossover hits like "Paying The Cost To Be The Boss" (1968) and "The Thrill Is Gone" (1970). King has recorded more than 50 albums, won 13 Grammys and received dozens of awards and honors over the years, and he still performs four or five nights a week.

King is known for his distinctive sound, especially his use of the sliding "bent" note, and for calling his electric Gibson guitar "Lucille." His albums include Live At The Regal (1965), Blues Is King (1967), Deuces Wild (1997) and Blues On The Bayou (1998).

Extra credit:

King owns night clubs in Memphis, Los Angeles and New York City... He originally called himself Beale Street Blues Boy, which he shortened to Blues Boy King and then B.B. King... In 1996 he published an autobiography, Blues All Around Me.

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