BB King’s 94th birthday | BB King’s biography: BB King’s 94th birthday, BB King was born on September 16th 1925. BB King was an American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and record producer. King introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending and shimmering vibrato that influenced many later electric blues guitarists.
Life (BB King)
While young, King sang in the gospel choir at Elkhorn Baptist Church in Kilmichael. King was attracted to the Pentecostal Church of God in Christ because of its music. The local minister performed with a Sears Roebuck Silvertone guitar during services. The minister taught King his first three chords. It seems that at the age of 12 he purchased his first guitar for $15.00, although another source indicates he was given his first guitar by Bukka White, his mother’s first cousin (King’s grandmother and White’s mother were sisters). In November 1941, “King Biscuit Time” first aired, broadcasting on KFFA in Helena, Arkansas. It was a radio show featuring the Mississippi Delta blues. King listened to it while on break at a plantation. A self-taught guitarist, he then wanted to become a radio musician. In 1943, King left Kilmichael to work as a tractor driver and play guitar with the Famous St. John’s Gospel Singers of Inverness, Mississippi, performing at area churches and on WGRM in Greenwood, Mississippi. In 1946, King followed Bukka White to Memphis, Tennessee. White took him in for the next ten months. However, King returned to Mississippi shortly afterward, 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, where he began to develop an audience. King’s appearances led to steady engagements at the Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis, and later to a ten-minute spot on the Memphis radio station WDIA. The radio spot became so popular that it was expanded and became the Sepia Swing Club. He worked at WDIA as a singer and disc jockey, where he was given the nickname “Beale Street Blues Boy”, later shortened to “Blues Boy”, and finally to B.B. It was there that he first met T-Bone Walker. King said, “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!”
Career (BB King)
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, King was a part of the blues scene on Beale Street. “Beale Street was where it all started for me,” King said. He performed with Bobby Bland, Johnny Ace and Earl Forrest in a group called The Beale Streeters. According to King and Joe Bihari, Ike Turner introduced King to the Bihari brothers while he was a talent scout at Modern Records. In 1949, King began recording songs under contract with Los Angeles-based RPM Records, a subsidiary of Modern. Many of King’s early recordings were produced by Sam Phillips, who later founded Sun Records. Before his RPM contract, King had debuted on Bullet Records by issuing the single, “Miss Martha King” (1949), which did not chart well. “My very first recordings [in 1949] were for a company out of Nashville called Bullet, the Bullet Record Transcription company,” King recalled. “I had horns that very first session. I had Phineas Newborn on piano; his father played drums, and his brother, Calvin, played guitar with me. I had Tuff Green on bass, Ben Branch on tenor sax, his brother, Thomas, on trumpet, and a lady trombone player. The Newborn family were the house band at the famous Plantation Inn in West Memphis. “
King assembled his own band; the B.B. King Review, under the leadership of Millard Lee. The band initially consisted of Calvin Owens and Kenneth Sands (trumpet), Lawrence Burdin (alto saxophone), George Coleman (tenor saxophone), Floyd Newman (baritone saxophone), Millard Lee (piano), George Joyner (bass) and Earl Forest and Ted Curry (drums). Onzie Horne was a trained musician elicited as an arranger to assist King with his compositions. By his own admission, King could not play chords well and always relied on improvisation. King’s recording contract was followed by tours across the United States, with performances in major theaters in cities such as Washington , D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, and St. Louis, as well as numerous gigs in small clubs and juke joints of the southern United States. During one show in Twist, Arkansas, a brawl broke out between two men and caused a fire. He evacuated along with the rest of the crowd but went back to retrieve his guitar. He said he later found out that the two men were fighting over a woman named Lucille. He named the guitar Lucille, as a reminder not to fight over women or run into any more burning buildings. Following his first BillboardRhythm and Blues charted number one, “3 O’Clock Blues” (February 1952), B.B. King became one of the most important names in R&B music in the 1950s, amassing an impressive list of hits including “You Know I Love You”, “Woke Up This Morning”, “Please Love Me”, “When My Heart Beats like a Hammer”, “Whole Lotta Love”, “You Upset Me Baby”, “Every Day I Have the Blues”, “Sneakin’ Around”, “Ten Long Years”, “Bad Luck”, “Sweet Little Angel”, “On My Word of Honor”, and “Please Accept My Love”. This led to a significant increase in his weekly earnings, from about $85 to $2,500, with appearances at major venues such as the Howard Theater in Washington and the Apollo in New York, as well as touring the “Chitlin’ Circuit”. 1956 became a record-breaking year, with 342 concerts booked and three recording sessions That same year he founded his own record label, Blues Boys Kingdom, with headquarters at Beale Street in Memphis. There, among other projects, he was a producer for artists such as Millard Lee and Levi Seabury. In 1962, King signed to ABC-Paramount Records, which was later absorbed into MCA Records (which itself was later absorbed into Geffen Records). In November 1964, King recorded the Live at the Regal album at the Regal Theater. King later said that Regal Live “is considered by some the best recording I’ve ever had . . . that particular day in Chicago everything came together . . .”
King was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and the Official Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2014. 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.”
In 2006, King went on a “farewell” world tour, although he remained active afterward. The tour was partly supported by Northern Irish guitarist, Gary Moore, with whom King had previously toured and recorded. It started in the United Kingdom, and continued with performances at the Montreux Jazz Festival and in Zürich at the Blues at Sunset. During his show in Montreux at the Stravinski Hall, he jammed with Joe Sample, Randy Crawford, David Sanborn, Gladys Knight, Leela James, Andre Beeka, Earl Thomas, Stanley Clarke, John McLaughlin, Barbara Hendricks and George Duke. In June 2006, King was present at a memorial of his first radio broadcast at the Three Deuces Building in Greenwood, Mississippi, where an official marker of the Mississippi Blues Trail was erected. The same month, a groundbreaking was held for a new museum, dedicated to King, in Indianola, Mississippi. The B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center opened on September 13, 2008. In late October 2006, King recorded a concert album and video entitled B.B. King: Live at his B.B. King Blues Clubs in Nashville and Memphis. The video of the four-night production featured his regular B.B. King Blues Band and captured his show as he performed it nightly around the world. Released in 2008, they documented his first live performances in over a decade. In 2007, King played at Eric Clapton’s second Crossroads Guitar Festival and contributed the songs “Goin’ Home”, to Goin’ Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino (with Ivan Neville’s DumpstaPhunk) and “One Shoe Blues” to Sandra Boynton’s children’s album Blue Moo, accompanied by a pair of sock puppets in a music video for the song.
In the summer of 2008, King played at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, where he was given a key to the city. Also in 2008, he was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame.King performed at the Mawazine festival in Rabat, Morocco, on May 27, 2010. In June 2010, King performed at the Crossroads Guitar Festival with Robert Cray, Jimmie Vaughan, and Eric Clapton. He also contributed to Cyndi Lauper’s album Memphis Blues, which was released on June 22, 2010. In 2011, King played at the Glastonbury Music Festival, and in the Royal Albert Hall in London, where he recorded a concert video. Rolling Stone ranked King at No. 6 on its 2011 list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. On February 21, 2012, King was among the performers of “In Performance at the White House: Red, White and Blues,” during which President Barack Obama sang part of “Sweet Home Chicago”. King recorded for the debut album of rapper and producer Big K.R.I.T., who also hails from Mississippi. On July 5, 2012, King performed a concert at the Byblos International Festival in Lebanon. On May 26, 2013, King appeared at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. On October 3, 2014, after completing his live performance at the House of Blues in Chicago, a doctor diagnosed King with dehydration and exhaustion, and the eight remaining shows of his ongoing tour had to be cancelled. King did not reschedule the shows, and the House of Blues show would prove to be the last before his death in 2015.