“There are people who think that if you’re a blues singer you should always be in torn clothes, and in a little club that’s smokey, and high off something before you reach the stage, and not be able to know your ABCs, and be sure you don’t use anything other than a guitar and a harmonica and you play the joints the roaches and the rats are running through.”
“When people treat you mean, you dislike them for that, but not because of their person, who they are. I was born and raised in a segregated society, but when I left there, I had nobody I disliked other than the people that’d mistreated me, and that only lasted for as long as they were mistreating me.”
“I was born on a plantation, and things weren’t so good. We didn’t have any money. I never thought of the word ‘poor’ ’til I got to be a man, but when you live in a house that you can always peek out of and see what kind of day it is, you’re not doing so well. And your rest room is not inside the house.”
BB King’s story begins like nearly all bluesmen’s story that have branded the history of the blues in the second half of the twentieth century: birth (known as Riley B. King) in the Mississippi Delta, broken family (dad left), first musical steps at the church, arriving in Memphis in the 40’s, where he meets his cousin (and mentor), the genius of country-blues Bukka White.
It’s in Memphis from the late 40’s that BB King’s career will begin. Host of the famous African-American radio WDlA (the first of this genre, which also hosted the first steps of Rufus Thomas, and of which Elvis Presley was a regular listener), BB King gets his electric guitar, and signs his first discography of lyrics (a few songs recorded by Sam Phillips, the future obstetrician of rock’n’roll at Sun Records).
From the beginning, the style of BB King is certain: a rightly posed, precisely orchestrated, sophisticated and loving style, defined by a generous lyric and guitar playing. Quite far from the primitive country blues of Mississippi and more raw electric blues of Chicago, this polymorphic and polished style (later ornamented with strings and keyboards) is probably that will ensure the longevity of BB King, even when the blues and R & B will pass the mode.
This will allow him to blend his music with other genres also, to reach audiences of soul, funk and rock, and play with a lot of stars. To make him one of the few bluesmen who entered the mainstream pop-rock, with a sixty-year career and at least as much albums. He announced his farewell tour to Europe in 2006, he made his last concert in Paris in 2012, and was scheduled for a date in Italy this summer…
Legendary musician, legendary instrument. If the death of BB King saddens the world of music today, it also leaves a “Lucille” orphan. Lucille is the name that King had given to his blues guitar (or rather to all his guitars).
Fetishist like any good guitarist, he named his instrument after he had escaped the flames of a fire that struck the “dance hall”, a night in 1949 at Twist in Arkansas. His first “Lucille” was a “Gibson L-30“, a characteristic guitar of the time with the famous brand in 1935. The story is told by the king himself, in a interview given for Jazzweekly.com.
“Twist is about 70 km from the northwest of Memphis. So it was quite cold in the winter. To heat the room they used a kind of stove, which they put in the middle of the track, in which they put wood and kerosene or fuel to light it. People were dancing around, there was usually no problem. But that night, two guys started to fight and one of them knocked down the stove which poured the kerosene on the floor.Tit was like a river of fire and everyone rushed to the exit, including me” he explained.
“But once outside, I realized I had left my guitar inside. I went back for it,” explained he the details that the place was wooden and that he literally feared that he would leave his boots there”.
The next day we learned that the two had fought for a girl who worked there and named Lucille. So I named my guitar Lucille to remind me to never do a thing like that”, he told while he was at his 16th guitar name. The talent and the story of BB King therefore gave ideas to Gibson and they have sold a replica of the famous “Lucille” in 1980. To do this, guitar manufacturers has preferred to draw the old model L-30 except that the “Lucille” has no gills as they usually have so-called ” half- boxes ” . This choice reflects the will to honor the guitar king of the blues with his particular anecdote , and thus capitalize on his legend.
And just to ensure that the guitar becomes a classic among fans, Gibson has marketed a “low cost” version via its subsidiary Epiphone. The Gibson version costs more than 4,000 euros in the market, but the lower budget Epiphone version is around 600 euros. With the death of its creator, the famous ” Lucille ” should become even more legendary. .
Let’s see now the top 6 songs of this blues giant:
6. Three O’Clock Blues
After spending his youth playing in the gospel group from his church and singing in the streets, BB King began to record some songs and began his career in 1949. Three years later, he became a part of the rhythm and blues scene with this song that quickly led him to leading the Billboard R & B.
5. Sweet Little Angel
During the years following the release of Three O’Clock Blues, B. B. King successfully begins his tours around the United States. His style is affirmed and his popularity is growing. With Sweet Little Angel -composed in 1930-, he resumed his way of classic blues and imposes it’s version that is now found among the 500 songs that made rock’n’roll, according to Billboard.
4. The Thrill Is Gone
The release of the song in 1969 marks a turning point in his career, since it allows him to reach a wider audience. During the same year, the artist begins a tour with the Rolling Stones ensuring the first part of their US tour. He will received a Grammy Award for the title the following year. Rolling Stone also considers the version of B. B. King as one of the best songs in history.
3. When Love Comes to Town
The showman and guitarist could transmit his passion for the blues to the younger generation through such a legendary duet with U2. When Love Comes to Town was released in 1988 as a single on the album Rattle and Hum of the Irish rock group and was recorded in Memphis, the city where B. B. King moved early in his career.
2. Sweet Home Chicago
Sweet Home Chicago had many interpretations. Live the king of the blues at the White House in 2012, remains the most memorable . Accompanied by Jeff Beck and Mick Jagger , he invited President Barack Obama to sing a few phrases of the song.
1. Darlin’ You Know I love You
Darlin’ You Know I love You was a hit in 1952 for B.B. King on the R&B charts and remained one of his favorite “blues love ballads.” The original single featured King and an orchestra. “I’m kind of from the big-band era,” King said.
“I was crazy about Benny Goodman, I liked Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Jimmy Lunceford and all the big bands that had blues singers with them. Jay McShann had Walter Brown as a singer, Count Basie had Jimmy Rushing, Duke had Al Hibbler, Benny Goodman had Peggy Lee. All those were my favorites. I loved the sound of horns and all that. I always wanted it, and I always had one or two horns, always.” King (above, in 1955) also said he patterned his gentlemanly onstage conduct on Ellington and Goodman after meeting them.
The King died at the age of 89. It is a music legend that disappeared, whose career spanned more than 70 years. In the late 1980’s, he had experienced a resurgence in popularity with a new generation through his recordings with U2 and Eric Clapton.
We will always remember him with his eternal music, his electric guitar sound which was sharp and personal, changed the modern blues and influenced generations of musicians (Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield , Duane Allman). Lucille became an orphan, the King lives no more.
Thank you for reading the article. Do not forget to read the next one, which will be about Sonny Boy Williamson, another blues star.