Though he is known professionally as B.B King, the singers name is actually Riley B. King. ‘B.B’ comes from his nickname, ‘Blues Boy’ which referenced his excellent Blue music ability.
The singer was born on the 16th of September 1925 and he passed away on the 14th of May 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada at the age of 89.
Riley B. King was born on a Berclair cotton plantation close to the town of Itta Bena, Mississippi and was the son of sharecroppers Albert and Nora Ella King. He considered nearby city Mississippi to be his home. When he was four years old, his mum left his father for another man and so B.B King was raised by his Grandmother, Elnora Farr.
As a young boy, King sang within the gospel choir at Elkhorn Baptist Church in Kilmichael. He became attracted to the Pentecostal Church of God in Christ due to its song and he began to learn guitar from the minister there. In 1941 a show was broadcast on the radio and played the blues, King who was a self-taught guitarist decided he wanted to become a radio musician.
The singer once said that he went to a larger school in a place called Lexington, Mississippi for about a year but spent most of his schooling years in a smaller school in Kilmichael, Mississippi.
Blue legend B.B King had a number of homes in his estate when he died, fifteen of them, but he was living in his Las Vegas home before his death. The massive estate is now owned by retired NFL football player Frank Hawkins.
The singer was approximately 178 cm’s tall and weighed around 86 kg’s. Doctors have said he should have lived longer, if his diet and exercise regime weren’t so poor. He suffered from diabetes and a number of health complications as a result.
B.B King is famous for being a Blues legend, the American singer songwriter, guitarist and record producer is well known for his guitar playing style which later influenced many Blues guitar players. The singer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the 80s and was recognised for his influenced as a Blues musician at the time. He is often known as the King of the Blues. The singer was highly prolific during his career, appearing in more than 200 concerts per year during his 70s. In the year 1965 he appeared at 342 shows in total! He toured all over the world during his career.
He started his career in the late 1940s as a player on the blues scene on Beale Steet. He was introduced by talent scout from Modern Records, Ike Turner to the Bihari Brothers. In 1949 he began recording songs with a subsidiary of Modern Records called RPM records. The singer assembled a band which he called the B.B King Review, lead by Millard Lee. The band initially involved Calvin Owens and Kenneth Sands on trumpet, Lawrence Burdin, George Coleman and Flyd Newman on saxophone, Millard Lee on piano, George Joyner on bad and Ted Curry on drums. The band went on tours across the US with performances at major venues in big cities and gigs at small clubs.
After his first number one on the Billboard Rhythm and Blues chart ‘3 O’Clock Blues’ he quickly became one of the biggest names in R&B in the 1950s, racking up a number of hits such as ‘You Know I Love You’, ‘Woke Up This Morning’, ‘Please Love Me’, ‘When My Heart Beats Like A Hammer, Ten Long Years’, ‘Sneakin’ Around’, ‘Bad Lukc’ ‘You Upset Me Baby’, ‘Every Day I Have The Blues’ ‘Please Accept My Love’, ‘Sweet Little Angel’ and a number of other notable songs. His success led to appearances at big venues like Howard Theatre in Washington, Apollo in New York and a tour with the Chitlin’ Circuit. In 1956 he broke records with 342 concerts and three recording sessions, he also founded his own label Blues Boy Kingdom with headquarters located in Memphis. In 1962 the musician signed with ABC-Paramount Records and record the ‘Live at the Regal’ album at the Regal Theater.
From the late 1960s onwards his manager Sid Seidenberg began to push him into different types of venues and he began to gain popularity in front of white audiences. He gained attention from rock audiences when he performed as the opening act for the Rolling Stones 1969 American tour. In 1970 he won a Grammy Award for his cover of ‘The Thrill Is Gone’. In 1980 he earned a place in the Blues Hall of Fame and received his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
Between the 1980s, up until the time of his death in 2015, the musician remained highly active in his career, performing up to three hundred nights a year. In 1988 he connected with a new generation by releasing the song ‘When Love Comes To Town’, a collaboration between King and U2.
In 2006 the musician embarked on a farewell tour around the world (although he continued to perform afterwards). The tour was supported by Gary Moore, a guitarist from Ireland, and also saw guest performances from Joe Sample, Randy Crawford, David Sanbord, Gladys Knight, Leela James, Andre Beeka, Earl Thomas and a number of others.
In June 2006 he presented at the memorial for the first radio broadcast at the Three Deuces Building in Greenwood, Mississippi. He also attended a groundbreaking at a new museum, dedicated to him in Indianola, Mississippi. The museum opened in 2008.
Late 2006 he recorded a concert album and video called ‘B.B King: Live’, both were recorded at the B.B King Blues Clubs in Nashville and Memphis.
In 2007 the singer played at Eric Clatopns Crossroads Guitar Festival and in 2008 he played at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee. In 2010 he performed in Morocco and in the same year he contributed to Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Memphis Blues’. In 2011 he played at the Glastonbury Music Festival and in 2012 he performed at ‘In Performance at the White House: Red, White and Blues’. In 2013 he gave a performance at the New Orleans Jazz Festival and in 2014 gave a live performance at the House of Blues, but was diagnosed with dehydration and exhaustion afterwards and had to cancel his remaining shows.
The singer had a net worth of around $40 million at the time of his death thanks to his many performances, songs, record labels and blues clubs.
B.B King was married on two occasions, first to Martha Lee Denton between 1946 and 1956 and then to Sue Carol Hall between 1958 and 1966. The failure of his marriages has been blamed on his heavy touring schedule. Neither marriage produced children but it has been reported that King has fathered 15 children with different women. After his death a further three children came forward. The musician never disputed the paternity of the children who claimed to be his and banrolled tuitions and trust funds.
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