As did many, I awoke on Thursday the 16th May to the very sad news that the king of blues – B.B. King had passed away in his sleep. I had received an email from my Dad in Hong Kong with a link to a news story explaining B.B. King had passed away in his sleep. My dad was a huge fan of his music and blues music in general; I could tell he was very saddened by the news. His love for blues music had influenced me at a very early age due to hand me downs from my dad’s record collection. As avid guitar players we were hugely influenced by B.B. Kings music. I remember many a days jamming along to B.B. king blues backing tracks and trying to match his tone, style and fluid licks.
For those that don’t know B.B. King (Riley B, King) was famous for his song writing and guitar playing. Rolling Stone magazine ranked King number 6 on its 2011 list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time (previously ranked number 3 in the 2003 edition). King was inducted into the rock and roll half of fame in 1987. He was considered the most influential blues musician of all time earning the nickname “The King Of Blues” and rightly so in my opinion!
King was born on September 16th, 1925 on a cotton plantation in Mississippi. At the age of 12 he purchased his first guitar and in 1941 listened to a Mississippi blues radio station and wanted to become a radio musician. He was a self-taught guitarist quite like myself. He recorded his first record in 1949 and went on the top of the blues charts two years later with Three o’clock Blues. The song remained in the number one spot for 17 weeks.
From the 1980’s onwards King maintained a very active career appearing on TV and performing 300 nights a year. There was speculation that B.B. King had retired from music. However in an interview on Stephen Smiths Newsnight’s he confirmed he was still on the road at the age of 83. You can watch the video interview here. “I can’t retire, I need the money”. King was still touring in his 80s, having played more than 15,000 live gigs during his career.
You cannot mention King without talking about his beloved Gibson guitar named “Lucille” a Black Gibson ES-355. It was while playing in one of the clubs that a fight broke out over a woman, causing a fire. After rushing out of the wooden building, he realised that he had left his guitar inside. He risked his life by going back in to rescue his guitar. He named it after the woman whose charms had been behind the trouble: Lucille.
Many musicians from around the globe have paid their respects to king. Many have expressed their sadness and commented on his ‘beautiful style’ and massive contribution to blues music. Thousands of people gathered in Memphis to say farewell to King as his casket was driven to his final resting place. Plans were also made in Mississippi and Vegas to pay respects. He will be buried on the grounds of the B.B. King museum and Delta Interpretive center. Eric Clapton wrote in his autobiography, is “without a doubt the most important artist the blues has ever produced.” King has influenced many of the greatest guitarists and bands since the 50’s such as Jimmi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, ZZ Top and Fleetwood Mac.
In recent headlines however two of Kings daughters have made claims two aides poisoned him. They have started a lawsuit against Kings business manager and personal assistant. A post-mortem exam had been conducted But the test results are expected to take up to eight weeks. The clark county coroner said there was no immediate evidence to support the daughter’s allegations. Some are saying they are motivated by money. However a spokesperson for the daughters say “Karen and Patty have nothing to gain financially by getting truth to how their father died. “No family members were allowed to see him for a week prior to his death, and that raised reasonable suspicion as to his cause of death. My clients just want answers.”
A huge hole has been left in blues music. Rest in piece the king of blues.
For more info on the legend please visit his website
Written by Rob Wade
Garphic Designer @ mytradetv