The King is Gone, But the Thrill Goes On!
On Thursday night March 14th, the world lost more than an icon and more than a legend, it lost a musical pioneer. BB King, the ambassador of Blues music, died in his sleep, at the age of 89, in his Las Vegas home, with diabetes contributing to his health decline during his final years. When the news went public, fans and fellow entertainers world wide, mourned the passing of this pop culture titan.
Born in Mississippi in 1925 as Riley B. King, the blues great juggled learning guitar with picking cotton and by his teen-age years, was already starting to perform professionally. He acquired his nickname of BB when working as a DJ in Memphis, where he was known as the Beale Street Blues Boy – the Blues Boy was eventually shortened to BB.
His first hits were in 1950 and in 1951 he had a national hit with the song Three O’Clock Blues, which began a run of successes that would see him, as one writer put it, “redefine blues guitar playing and the blues itself.”
BB was known to say more with one note than other guitarist could with an entire flurry of notes. As country/folk singer Jason Isbell put it: “BB King wasn’t just a famous blues singer, he was a truly incredible guitar player. Didn’t give a damn about chords. You can’t sing a chord.” King himself said, “I wanted to connect my guitar to human emotions.”
It was this combination of powerful passionate vocals matched with amazing guitar work that dripped with emotion from every single note, that got BB internationally dubbed, “The King Of Blues.”
Now of course there were other guitarists, other more technical in their playing or more flamboyant then BB, however no one really riveled his ability to infuse tangible emotions into music.
King played a Gibsen guitar that became affectionately known world wide as “Lucille” and took the Blues to mainstream heights with songs like “The Thrill Is Gone”, “Lucille”, “Why I Sing The Blues” and one of my personal favorites, “Never Make Your Move Too Soon.”
A true touring road warrior, BB was known to do up to 250 shows a year and toured well into his 80’s.
Additionally no coverage on BB King would be complete without several of the most telling facts responsible for his status as King of The Blues.
ONE: The “Whose Who” list of iconic guitar legends that all considered
King their mentor or the greatest blues man of our time. is staggering and includes: Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, U2 and many other guitarists too numerous to list.
TWO: The impact of Kings influence on Pop culture through his music, extended beyond other guitarists, as writer of The Wrap reported:
“Artists like Lenny Kravitz and Snoop Dogg posted tributes to 89-year-old guitarist, while others including “Tomorrowland” star Hugh Laurie — who played the guitar-loving Dr. Gregory House on Fox’s “House” — and fellow musical luminary Gladys Knight chimed in with their own thoughts, as well.”
Morgan Freeman went as far as to say that King’s death was such a loss to humanity, it “created a hole in the universe.”
THREE: The 1987 induction in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame
FOUR: A No. 6 ranking among Rolling Stone Magazines’ 100 greatest guitarist‘s of all time.
As noted in our header, The King is gone but the Thrill his legacy has left for future generations will live on. All Hail To the King!!