Today the world mourns the passing of B.B. King, one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, a legend who brought an entirely new sound to the blues and showed the way for a generation of guitar artists. Known for his signature quavering guitar and short, flowing lyrics, King was regarded as a cross-genre master and one of the greatest artists of his generation. Here we celebrate B.B. King's life and exceptional talent by sharing his music and the work he inspired.
Born on a cotton plantation in 1925, Riley B. King was mentored by blues guitarist Bukka White and would begin touring with his mentor by his early 20s. After several popular radio appearances, King would become a fixture of the Memphis radio scene, known as the "Beale Street Blues Boy" before the nickname was shortened to the now familiar B.B. King. Beale Black & Blue paints a vivid history of Beale Street, the blues culture it would become synonymous with, and the incredible array of musical talent that would come to define an era of sound.
When T-Bone Walker brought the electric blues into the spotlight, he began a tradition that B.B. King would come to master. King brought a new sound to the blues, a signature left-hand vibrato that has been a vital part of the guitarist's vocabulary since he introduced it. King combined that unique sound with short verse that flows effortlessly into guitar, a style that has been endlessly imitated, but never duplicated. You can hear that sound being developed in Singin' the Blues, but the full effect comes through in B.B. King Live at the Regal.
B.B. King earned a host of awards on his lifetime, with 15 wins since 1971's "The Thrill is Gone." You can hear more B.B. King in The Four Kings of Blues Guitar, along with his most talented contemporaries. For a more personal look at B.B. King, try his autobiography, Blues All Around Me, and The B.B. King Treasures.