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B.B. King, whose full name was Riley B. King, was a legendary American blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter.
He was one of the most influential and celebrated figures in the history of blues music. Here is a detailed history of B.B. King's life and career:
Early Life (1925-1940):
- B.B. King was born on September 16, 1925, in a small cabin on a cotton plantation near Itta Bena, Mississippi.
- His parents were sharecroppers, and he was named Riley after his uncle, but he later adopted the nickname "Blues Boy," which was eventually shortened to B.B.
- King's early life was marked by poverty and hardship, and he worked in the cotton fields from a young age.
Beginnings in Music (1940-1949):
- B.B. King's first exposure to music came from the church choir and listening to blues records by artists such as T-Bone Walker and Lonnie Johnson.
- He received his first guitar, a Stella, when he was 12 years old.
- In the late 1940s, King moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where he began his music career in earnest.
- He worked as a DJ at radio station WDIA, where he got the nickname "Beale Street Blues Boy," later shortened to "B.B."
Recording Career and Stardom (1950s-1960s):
- In 1949, B.B. King recorded his first single, "Miss Martha King," for Bullet Records.
- He soon signed with RPM/Kent Records, where he recorded hits such as "Three O'Clock Blues," which topped the R&B charts in 1951.
- King's distinctive guitar style, characterized by his expressive single-string guitar bends and vibrato, earned him acclaim and established him as a leading figure in the blues world.
- Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, King continued to release a string of successful records, including "Every Day I Have the Blues," "Sweet Little Angel," and "The Thrill Is Gone."
- He toured extensively during this period, earning a reputation as a charismatic and electrifying live performer.
Influence and Prolific Career (1970s-2000s):
- B.B. King's influence on the blues genre and guitar playing extended to rock and roll. Many famous rock guitarists, such as Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, cited him as a major influence.
- King's career spanned over six decades, and he continued to tour and record prolifically.
- He won numerous awards and accolades, including multiple Grammy Awards and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
- In 1980, he was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame, and in 1987, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Later Life and Legacy (2010s):
- B.B. King's health began to decline in his later years, and he continued to perform despite various health issues.
- He passed away on May 14, 2015, in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the age of 89.
- King left behind a lasting legacy in the world of music. His distinctive guitar style and heartfelt singing continue to inspire and influence countless musicians.
- He is remembered as the "King of the Blues" and one of the greatest guitarists of all time.
B.B. King's life and career represent an enduring and influential chapter in the history of American music. His contribution to the blues genre and his ability to connect with audiences through his music have left an indelible mark on the world of music.