B.B. King

Born: September 16, 1925
Itta Bena, MS, USA

Riley B. King was born into the hard times that were befalling Itta Bena, Mississippi. Mississippi was not an easy place for a young black kid to grow up in the 1930’s, and B.B.’s family was not privileged. He worked as a sharecropper in the cotton fields until his hands bled, and faithfully sang in the church choir on Sundays. He sometimes lived with his grandmother, when his mother didn’t have any money. In 1943, B.B. moved to Indianola, a nearby town in Mississippi. There, he heard blues sounds such as T-Bone Walker and Lonnie Johnson. He decided to leave Indianola for the big lights of Memphis, where his musician cousin Bukka White lived and played. After furiously studying the guitar under White, King decided to give sharecropping another try, and returned to Indianola. He didn’t last long, however, and soon went back to Memphis, where he would stay.

WDIA, a radio station in Memphis, had began to try a new format. The live broadcast, which featured an all-black lineup, was the first of it’s kind to exist in the south. B.B. King soon began to broadcast his music on the station, and this led to gigs and appearances in many of the hopping blues clubs around Memphis. On the air, King became known as the “Beale Street Blues Boy,” which was later shortened to “B.B.” King.

In 1949, King recorded four songs for Bullet Records, and signed with RPM Records. B.B. put out a number of singles with RPM over the next few years. He released his first number one hit, “Three O’Clock Blues,” in 1951, and he began to tour and promote it. Throughout the 1950’s, King made many R&B hits for RPM Records, and earned himself legendary status among up-and-coming guitar stars.

In 1962, King moved over to the ABC-Paramount label, and a couple of years later he released Live at the Regal. Throughout the sixties, King released such hits as “How Blue Can You Get,” “Paying the Cost to Be the Boss,” and “Why I Sing the Blues.” It was 1969, however, that King finally managed to cross over and impact the mainstream audience with “The Thrill is Gone.” Following this hit song’s release, sales on all of his previous albums increased as well, proving that the mainstream audience now clearly exhibited an interest in King and his music.

Throughout the 70’s, King was one of the only bluesmen to even manage to score a hit at all. In order to appeal to a new audience, King incorporated some of the newer, smoother sounds into his music. What resulted was “To Know You is to Love You,” as well as the popular “I Like to Live the Love.”

Throughout the 80’s and 90’s, B.B. steadily slowed his activity in the studios, as well as his touring, but occasionally he appears on someone’s album, and he still tours in the nostalgia and legends circuits. In 2000, King released Riding with the Kings along with contemporary Eric Clapton. Most musicians recognize B.B. King as the reigning King of Blues, and fans prove it by buying out everyone one of his shows.

Instruments Played / Skills:
Guitar Songwriter Vocals

Blues Delta Blues Guitar Masters

B.B. King Has Worked With:
Buddy Guy The Edge Eric Clapton Paul Butterfield Bono

B.B. King Was Influenced By:
Charlie Christian Lonnie Johnson Django Reinhardt Bumble Bee Slim T. Bone Walker Bukka White

Artists That Were Influenced By B.B. King:
Tre Johnny Ace L.V. Banks Buster Benton Bobby Blue Bland Michael Bloomfield Aron Burton George Wild Child Butler Chris Cain Eric Clapton Albert Collins Robert Cray Jesse Fortune Ace Frehley David Gilmour Buddy Guy Jeff Healey Z.Z. Hill Garrett "Big G" Jacobson Big Jack Johnson Luther Johnson Vance Kelly Willie Kent Albert King Freddie King Shirley King Eddie Kirkland Smokin' Joe Kubek Bryan Lee Mighty Sam McClain Larry McCray Little Milton Gary Moore Dave Murray Lewis Partridge Doc Pomus Michael Duke Robillard Fenton Robinson Otis Rush Mem Shannon Guitar Slim Harmonica Slim Guitar Slim, Jr. Koko Taylor Jimmie Vaughan Stevie Ray Vaughan Phillip Walker Joe Walsh Robert Ward Lynn White Angus Young
Artists A to Z

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Site Best viewed with
Mozilla Firefox

"He's Satan. I swear to God, man, I don't know much about Mick. I don't think anybody does."

Do you have additional information on B.B. King? Click Here!