This week’s featured artist is B.B. King! Born Riley B. King on September 16th 1925, he was an American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and record producer. King introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending and shimmering vibrato that influenced many later blues electric guitar players.

King was born on a cotton plantation in Itta Bena, Mississippi, and later worked at a cotton gin in Indianola, Mississippi. He was attracted to music and the guitar in church, and began his career in juke joints and local radio. He later lived in Memphis, Tennessee, and Chicago, and as his fame grew, toured the world extensively.

In the winter of 1949, King played at a dance hall in Twist, Arkansas. The hall was heated by a barrel half-filled with burning kerosene set in the middle of the dance floor, a fairly common practice at the time. During a performance, two men began to fight, knocking over the barrel and sending the burning fuel across the floor. The hall burst into flames and was evacuated. 

Once outside however, King realized that he had left his guitar inside so he went back into the burning building to retrieve his beloved $30 Gibson guitar. King learned the next day that the two men who started the fire had been fighting over a woman who worked at the hall named Lucille. King did not know Lucille but named that guitar – and every guitar he subsequently owned – Lucille, as a reminder never again to do something as stupid as run into a burning building or fight over a woman. In 1980, Gibson launched the B. B. King Lucille model.

King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and is one of the most influential blues musicians of all time, earning the nickname “The King of the Blues”, and is considered one of the “Three Kings of the Blues Guitar” (along with Albert King and Freddie King, none of whom are blood related). King performed tirelessly throughout his musical career, appearing on average at more than 200 concerts per year into his 70s. In 1956 alone, he appeared at 342 shows. Throughout his career, King released a staggering 43 studio albums. He passed away in his sleep at the age of 89 in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 14, 2015.

Check below for a live video of The Thrill Is Gone, followed by a tab of how to play the rhythm section!

What are your favourite works by B.B. King? Were you fortunate enough to see him perform live? Us at Go Guitar Lessons are grateful for his incredible contributions to music. We are currently offering Video Conference Lessons if you’d like to learn about the history of music from a professional!

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