Friday, September 16, 2011

Happy Birthday To B.B. King

Riley B. King (born September 16, 1925), known by the stage name B.B. King ("B.B." short for Blues Boy), is an American blues guitarist and singer-songwriter acclaimed for his expressive singing and fluid, complex guitar playing.

Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at No.3 on its list of the "100 greatest guitarists of all time". According to Edward M. Komara, King "introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending and shimmering vibrato that would influence virtually every electric blues guitarist that followed." King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980. In 2004 he was awarded the international Polar Music Prize, given to artists "in recognition of exceptional achievements in the creation and advancement of music."

King was born in a small cabin on a cotton plantation outside of Berclair, near Indianola, Mississippi, to Albert King and Nora Ella Farr on September 16,1925. He grew up singing in the gospel choir at Elkhorn Baptist Church in Kilmichael. Some say at age 12, he purchased his first guitar for $15.00 although another reference indicates he was given his first guitar by his cousin, Bukka White. In 1943, King left Kilmichael to work as a tractor driver and play guitar with the Famous St. John's Quartet of Inverness, Mississippi, performing at area churches and on WGRM in Greenwood, Mississippi.

In 1946, King followed his cousin Bukka White to Memphis, Tennessee. White took him in for the next ten months. However, King shortly returned to Mississippi, where he decided to prepare himself better for the next visit, and returned to West Memphis, Arkansas, two years later in 1948. He performed on Sonny Boy Williamson's radio program on KWEM in West Memphis, Arkansas where he began to develop a local audience for his sound. King's appearances led to steady engagements at the Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis and later to a ten-minute spot on the legendary Memphis radio station WDIA. "King's Spot," became so popular, it was expanded and became the "Sepia Swing Club."

Initially he worked at the local R&B radio station WDIA as a singer and disc jockey, where he gained the nickname "Beale Street Blues Boy", later shortened to "B.B." It was there that he first met T-Bone Walker. "Once I'd heard him for the first time, I knew I'd have to have [an electric guitar] myself. 'Had' to have one, short of stealing!", he said.

King won a Grammy Award for a tune called "The Thrill Is Gone"; his version became a hit on both the pop and R&B charts, which was rare during that time for an R&B artist. It also gained the number 183 spot in Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. He gained further visibility among rock audiences as an opening act on The Rolling Stones' 1969 American Tour. King's mainstream success continued throughout the 1970s with songs like "To Know You is to Love You" and "I Like to Live the Love".

For more on this incredibly talented man's career, see: (source of this blog post)

B.B. King - A Bit Of Groovy!