In Memoriam | B.B. King 1925 – 2015

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Legendary blues guitarist B.B. King died in his sleep at his home in Las Vegas on Thursday. King had been battling various health issues over the past few years and succumbed shortly after a note on his official Facebook page indicated he was in home hospice care. The man born Riley B. King on September 16, 1925 near Itta Bena, Mississippi influenced multiple generations of guitarists with his trademark, vibrato-heavy approach to soloing.

[Photo by Scott Dudelson]

Riley turned into B.B. during King’s early days as a singer and radio DJ when his “Beale Street Blues Boy” nickname was shorted to “Blues Boy” and then “B.B.” King began his recording career after following his cousin Bukka White to Memphis, where many of his early recordings were produced by Sam Phillips in the days before Sun Studios.

B.B. won a devoted legion of fans thanks to the way he made his guitar, named “Lucille,” sing as well as his strong stage presence and unrivaled work ethic (he reportedly played 342 concerts in 1956). The guitarist scored many hits on the Billboard R&B charts but is perhaps best associated with his 1970 version of “The Thrill Is Gone” which rose all the way to #15 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles chart.

While known as the “King Of Blues” he was also the “Ambassador Of The Blues” thanks to the many collaborations he participated in with musicians from nearly every corner of the music world. King’s diverse resume includes opening for The Rolling Stones on their famed 1969 North American Tour, recording “When Loves Come To Town” with U2 in 1988 and jamming with Trey Anastasio and The Roots in 2001’s All Access concert film. B.B. was included among the second Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction class (1987), entered into the Blues Hall Of Fame in 1980 and was inducted into the R&B Hall Of Fame in 2014. The guitarist is survived by over a dozen children and 50 grandchildren.

Eric Clapton weighed in on the loss of his friend:

BB King a dear friend and inspiration to me….

Posted by Eric Clapton on Friday, May 15, 2015