B.B. King (born Riley B. King; September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015) was an American blues guitarist and singer-songwriter. Rolling Stone magazine said that King was the third “Greatest Guitarist of All Time” in 2003.
He was born in Indianola, Mississippi. His father left the family and his mother was too poor to raise him, and so he came to his grandmother, Elnora Farr, in Kilmichael, Mississippi. There he sang in the gospel choir at Elkhorn Baptist Church. At the age of 15 he bought his first guitar. His idols were T-Bone Walker, but also jazz musicians like Charlie Christian and Django Reinhrad. 1943 he left the town and worked as a tractor driver. He performed on Sonny Boy Williamson’s radio program on KWEM in West Memphis, Arkansas and reached a local audience with his sound. For this reason he got appearances in the Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis and later, a ten-minute spot on the Memphis radio station WDIA. This became so popular that it was expanded and became the “Sepia Swing Club.” During his work for the radio station he got his nickname “Beale Street Blues Boy” which was later shortened to B.B.
In 1949, King began recording songs for RPM Records from Los Angeles. King formed his own band; the B.B. King Review, under the leadership of Millard Lee and went on tours.
Lucille-European Tour 2009
In winter 1949 he played at a dance hall in Twist, Arkansas. The hall was heated by burning barrels filled with kerosine. During his performance two men started a fight knocking over one of them and the hall was burning. Outside he learned that he had left his guitar and he ran inside to get it. Next day he found out that the fight was started over a woman named Lucille. Since that time he named the guitar “Lucille.”
In the 1950´s B.B. King became one of the most important blues musicians. He toured regularly. In 1956 he gave 352 concerts. Among his hits were “3 O’Clock Blues”, “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.”
In the 1960 King lost importance for black listeners but could reach the white music fans. A lot of white guitarist like Eric Clapton named him as influence. King played at rock concerts and venues of the hippie culture like the Fillmore West. He also reached #15 in the US-popcharts with his title “The Thrill Is Gone”. From the 1980s onward he had continued his career, appearing on numerous television shows and performing 300 nights a year. The title “When Love Comes To Town”, which he performed together with the rock band U2 introduced him to a younger audience.
B.B. King was married two times. The marriages ended because of the burden of more than 200 concerts a year. It is reported that he is father of 15 children. He has lived with Type II diabetes for over twenty years and is a high-profile spokesman in the fight against the disease.
King died at the age of 89 in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 14, 2015 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease along with congestive heart failure and diabetic complications. On May 30, 2015, King’s funeral was held at the Bell Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Indianola, Mississippi. He was buried at the museum.
B.B. King has made guest appearances in numerous popular television shows, including The Cosby Show, The Young and the Restless, General Hospital, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Sesame Street, Married… with Children, Sanford and Son, and Touched by an Angel. He has also made a cameo in the movie Spies Like Us. In the movie Blues Brothers 2000 he was the leader of The Louisiana Gator Boys, a bluessupergroup, which battles against the Blues Brothers.
He is the owner of a chain of restaurants with concert venues in the United States. The first was opened on Beale Street in Memphis 1991. (wikipedia)
When ‘In London’ was released, the legendary blues guitarist and singer B.B. King was 46 years old and already had a great career behind him: he had started as a live musician, recorded various singles from 1949 and defied the emerging rock & roll with urban blues for a predominantly dark-skinned audience.
He had released well over 20 longplayer albums plus various compilations since 1957 alone, including classics like ‘Live At The Regal’ (1965) and ‘Live In Cook County Jail’ (1971), when a new path began to emerge: Besides competition from white rock & roll and the rock scene of the 1960s, the civil rights movement also robbed him of many fans: Young Afro-Americans no longer wanted to listen to the “blues of oppressed slaves”, they converted to funk, soul and other black music. Instead, more and more white kids came to the blues concerts, not least inspired by a few prominent fans from England: Eric Clapton, John Mayall, the Rolling Stones, Them, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Auger and others had triggered enthusiasm for African-American music in London in the late 1960s.
In this time of distancing and rapprochement in equal measure, B.B. King did exactly what had always kept his music alive: he sought encounters with other artists, used the crossover effect when he appeared alongside Ike & Tina Turner on the Rolling Stones’ US tour as the opening act. During that time, his song ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ charted and King was reportedly the first blues artist to be invited on TV highlights such as The Tonight Show and The Ed Sullivan Show. In 1970, the album ‘Indianola Mississippi Seeds’ was produced in collaboration with white artists – and the repetition of such categories alone shows us how commonplace racial segregation and discrimination still was at that time – Carole King and Leon Russell.
In 1971, another big step followed, namely across the Atlantic to London, right in the middle of blues-loving Britain. To speak of studio and guest musicians in connection with the various top-class line-ups on this album would be an understatement, because B.B. King met some real stars here who developed a fabulous joy of playing with him: Ringo Starr (dr), Gary Wright (p), Jim Keltner (dr), Peter Green (g), Klaus Voorman (b), David Spinozza (g), Steve Marriott (harp), the fat horn section of Jim Price, Ollie Mitchell, Chuck Findley, Bobby Keys and Bill Perkins, Alexis Korner on acoustic guitar, Dr. John alias Mac Rebenack also on guitar and The Mystery Shadow on Hammond organ – behind this pseudonym was Steve Winwood, presumably for contractual reasons.
Musically, King was very deeply embedded here in a slightly echoing whole, on a few songs his voice is perhaps a tad too far back for me. But by track 5 at the latest, the album highlight ‘Ghetto Woman’, with its wacky strings, the funky rhythm guitar of Mac Rebenack and the expressive vocals of Mr. King, one understood that here great Phil Spector cinema was applied to contemporary blues. The number made it to number 25 in the US R&B charts as a single. It’s just a pity that King’s final solo quickly falls victim to a fade-out.
In the following instrumental number ‘Wet Hayshark’, his over-clean tone and his very brittle rhythmic approach stand out – absolutely unique! Part-Time Love’ shows the king in his familiar form: sovereign in the lyrics, perfectly fat soling and in front of a cleanly swinging band. Alexis Boogie’ with King & Korner on acoustic guitars goes in a completely different, for B.B. rather unusual direction, just like the very soulful ‘Ain’t Nobody Home’ or the minimalist original funk ‘We Can’t Agree’ with an outstanding bass work by Klaus Voorman.
Conclusion: This is not an album for purists or dogmatists, because ‘In London’, B.B. King & collaborators were aiming for a contemporary sound image of the blues in progress. They succeeded. Encounters remained the salt in the blues soup in the following years: B.B. King later met The Crusaders, U2 and Eric Clapton, Gary Moore invited various icons as album guests and thus into the pop charts, which gave them late career highs, Muddy Waters worked with Johnny Winter and Johnny Winter on his last record once again with many old and young guitar greats. The blues lives on. (
And I add an interesting article about these legedndary recording sessions.
Duster Bennett (harmonica on 01.)
John Best (bass on 08.)
Paul Butler (guitar on 08.)
Peter Green (guitar on 01.
Chuck Findley (trombone on 01.)
Barry Ford (drums on 08.)
Jim Gordon (drums on 01., 05., 06.
Jim Keltner (drums on 02., 04. + 09.)
B.B. King (guitar, vocals)
Bobby Keys (saxophone on 01., 07. + 09.)
Alexis Korner (guitar on 03.)
Steve Marriott (guitar, harmonica on 03.)
Ollie Mitchell (trumpet on 01.
Bill Perkins (saxophone, clarinet on 01.
Jim Price (trumpet, on 01., 06., 07. + 09., piano on 05.)
Dr. Ragovoy (piano on 09.)
Mac Rebennack (guitar on 05.)
Greg Ridley (bass on 03.)
Jerry Shirley (drums)
David Spinozza (guitar on 09.)
Ringo Starr (drums on 05. – 07
Klaus Voorman (bass on 01., 02., 04. – 07. + 09.)
John Uribe (guitar on 02., 04. + 09.)
Pete Wingfield (piano on 08.)
Steve “The Mystery Shadow” Winwood (organ on 02., 04.
Gary Wright (organ on 01., 07. + 09., piano on 02., 04. – 06.)
Rick Wright (piano on 01.
background vocals on 09.:
Carl Hall – Joshie Armstead – Tasha Thomas
01. Caldonia (Moore) 3.59
02. Blue Shadows (Glenn) 5.08
03. Alexis’ Boogie (Korner) 3.27
04. We Can’t Agree (JordanGray) 4.42
05. Ghetto Woman (King/Clark) 5.14
06. art-Time Love (Hammond) 3.12
08. Power Of The Blues (Wingfield) 2.20
09. Ain’t Nobody Home (Ragovoy) 3.10
10. May I Have A Talk With You /Burnett) 3.51
More from B.B.King: