Blues legend, singer, and guitarist B. B. "Blues Boy" King (1925-2015) was born Riley B. King on this day amidst the cotton farms of Indianola, Mississippi. As a young musician, he played for dimes on the street corners.
For over 60 years, the "King of the Blues" has played his signature Gibson electric guitar Lucille, named for a woman who once caused a brawl in a club.
"The blues was like that problem child that you may have had in the family. You was a little bit ashamed to let anybody see him, but you loved him. You just didnít know how other people would take it," the music pioneer once said.
Inspired by his hero T-Bone Walker, King scored his first hit in 1950 with 3 O'Clock Blues. "I remember how much I loved Lowell Fulson's version, but I also wanted to put my own hurting on that beautiful song," King said.
He began to build his reputation as an innovative blues guitarist, playing what Rolling Stone described as "integrating single string runs, 'bent' chords and left hand vibrato."
"It is always better to know and not need than to need and not know," King observed philosophically. "I always like to know more than people think I know. Each day, I've got my ears kind of cocked, learnin'," he once explained.
In 1966, he wrote his signature song, The Thrill is Gone, which featured his passionate, open-hearted singing--raw, rich, and distinctive. One of the greatest guitarists of all time, B. B. has been an inspiration to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, and George Harrison, legends in their own right. He continues to tour and influence musicians and audiences throughout the world.
"The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you," he said.
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