songwriter and guitarist Eric Clapton once said, “B.B. King is without a doubt
the most important artist the blues has ever produced”.1 Born September 16, 1925, Riley B. King better
known by his stage name, B.B. King, was an American blues singer/songwriter,
electric guitarist, and record producer.
A career that spanned from 1948 to his death in 2015, King collaborated
with and influenced generations of musicians including: Jimi Hendrix, Eric
Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. His
trademark tone and unique style of soloing on his beloved guitar Lucille, helped
earn him the nickname “The King of Blues”.
son of sharecroppers Albert and Nora Ella King, Riley B. King was born on a
cotton plantation near Itta Bena, Mississippi.
Although he was born in Itta Bena, King considered the city of Indianola
to be is hometown. As an adolescent, King
began singing in the Elkhorn Baptist Church choir group. It was here he met a local minster who, using
a Sears Roebuck Silvertone guitar, taught King how to play his first
chords. Not long after at the age of 12,
he bought his fist guitar for $15.00. Inspired by Mississippi Delta Blues, a young
King would play as many as four shows a night to make ends meet. In 1947, at the age of 22 King left
Mississippi and hitchhiked his way to Memphis, Tennessee to pursue his music
career. A year later in 1948, he
performed on Sonny Boy Williamson’s radio program on KWEM. This led to King getting his own ten-minute
segment on Memphis radio station WDIA called “King’s Spot”. The segment became so popular that it was
expanded into its own show called “Sepia Swing Club”. This is where King coined his radio name
Beale Street Blues Boy which he later shortened to “B.B.”.
Clapton, Clapton: The Autobiography (USA,