The Thrill Has Gone: King of Blues, B.B. King Passes Away at 89

| May 15, 2015 | 0 Comments

Legendary blues musician B.B. King has passed away in Las Vegas at the age of 89. King was more than deserving of the title ‘King of Blues’ a title he rightfully held for over sixty years. With nothing but his strong voice and his Gibson guitar Lucile, B.B. King changed music and influenced generations to come.

Born in Itta Bena, Mississippi, on September 16th 1925, he was first introduced to the world as Riley B. King. Raised by his grandmother, King would buy his first guitar for $15 when he was around 12 years old. While he would always study math and language his entire life, King dropped out at 10th grade and had to work by driving tractors and picking cotton. He also would sing at gospel in a church choir until his teenage years.

In 1948, B.B. King got a gig on Sonny Boy Williamson’s local radio show, “King Biscuit Time” and a hosted a WDIA program as a disc jockey and dubbed himself ‘The Beale Street Blues Boy’.That title would eventually be shortened to Blues Boy, or B.B. which is what the world would learn to know him as.

This led to B.B. King playing at Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis, Tennessee where he first heard electric guitar. In only a couple of years, B.B. King would land his first hit with ‘Three O’Clock Blues’ which over the years of course was followed by many more such as; ‘You Upset Me Baby’, ‘Sweet Sixteen’, ‘The Thrill Has Gone’ and countless others over the decades. It was during the early years of his career that his famously gave his guitar the name Lucile. It was after a fire broke out in a place he was playing at and King forgot his instrument, he ran back in the building risking his life for his guitar. When he found out the fire was a result of two men knocking over a kerosene stove fighting over a woman name Lucile, the rest is history as they say.

Originally playing in front of all-black crowds, by the 60’s when the British Invasion came into America, King began to play for Whites. The sound he had pioneered was being infused by bands like The Rolling Stones and it was only a matter of time before that audience took wind of the distinctive vibrato of B.B. King. He was able to play in venues that were long before closed away for blacks, playing on ‘The Tonight Show’ even. His album Live at the Regal in 1965 would be preserved in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.


What B.B. King means to not just the blues but music in general cannot be summed up in one sentence. From his 15 Grammy awards, Lifetime achievement award, Presidential Medal of Freedom and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame his body of work and the man he was clearly speaks for itself. B.B. King would even open his own Blue’s clubs in the 1990’s that span across many American cities to this day.He really became infamous for his legendary touring, having played more than 15,000 shows. Traveling over the United States to Russia, China , and Europe as well, King would tour his entire life even into his 80s.

Nothing could stop him from playing the blues, even Type II diabetes was not enough. He battled with the disease for over 25 years while still continuing to play over 200 shows a year, raising awareness of diabetes in the process. This also made it hard to hold a marriage as he had two wives while fathering 15 children. It was only a few weeks back that B.B. King had announced he was on hospice care at his home, until the crushing news breaking last night that he had passed.

Many celebrities have spoken out and sent their condolences and appreciation for what B.B. King has done.

Long Live the King.

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