BB king was born Riley B.
King, on a cotton plantation in Mississippi, on September 16th, 1925. When he was 4 years old, his mother left his father for another man. This left him to be raised by his grandmother. As a child, he sang in the gospel choir at his local church. The minister of that church, who played guitar, taught B.B. his first chords.
He acquired his first guitar at the age of 12, and from there on, he taught himself how to play the guitar, listening to the delta blues on records and the radio. In 1943, King left his home of Kilmichael, Mississippi, to go and join a blues quartet in Inverness, MIssissippi. With the St.
Johns Quartet, King began performing at local venues, such as local churches, and on the WGRM radio station, in Greenwood, Mississippi. After moving to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1946, King moved around for while, eventually landing in West Memphis, Arkansas. It was there that King developed a following, playing on the KWEM radio station in West Memphis. HIs following developed, eventually earning him a reputation, and gaining him a show on the WDIA station. Initially, he worked as a DJ and occasional performer on the station, eventually garnering the nickname “Blues Boy”. The name was eventually shortened to B.
B.. This job introduced him to T-Bone Walker.
From the moment he heard Walker’s music, King knew he needed to play the electric guitar. In 1949, King began to record with RPM records. Eventually, with the help of Millard Lee, King established his own band, which he named; “The B.B. King Review”. After he had recorded for a while, King began to tour, performing in various theatres and clubs across the United States. During one particular show in Twist, Arkansas, a fight broke out between two men in the audience, causing a fire.
King initially fled the burning building with everyone else, but after realising he had left his guitar, a black Gibson ES, in the building, he rushed back into the building and saved it from the blaze. Afterwards, he learned that the two men were fighting over a woman named Lucille, and from then on, any guitar King owned, he would call Lucille, in memory of the night in which he ran back through a burning building to save his precious guitar. Throughout the 50s, B.
B.’s popularity skyrocketed, eventually giving him the reputation and one of the greatest blues players around. He had several songs which reached top positions on the Billboard R&B chart. In the 1960s, when the blues became ultra-popular, King began to appeal to a larger audience, through work with people like Eric Clapton, and other popular blues-rock musicians. King eventually won a grammy, for his song “The Thrill is Gone”, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame in 1987.
He died in 2015, at the age of 89.