BB King – The Thrill is Gone
9 Things You May Not Know About the Late BB King
1. A Guitar Named Lucille
King was playing a gig in 1949 when the dance hall in Twist, Arkansas was set ablaze after a barrel of burning kerosene was knocked over by two brawlers. Once he was safely outside, King decided to run back into the burning building to rescue his prized $30 Gibson guitar. He later found out that the men were fighting over a woman named Lucille, so that guitar – and all of his subsequent guitars – have been named for her.
2. Lucille Continued
There has been at least 40 Lucille’s throughout his legendary career. The Lucille guitar is typically a black Gibson ES-355 with no “f” holes to cut down on the feedback. Some of his guitars were semi-hollow and some were solid and some were even chambered, depending on the model year. A standard Gibson ES-355 retails for under $5,000.
3. Where he got his Name
B.B. King was born Riley B. King on September 16, 1925 on a cotton plantation in Mississippi. He was the son of sharecroppers. Early in his musical career King was a singer and DJ at a radio station and got the nickname Beale Street Blues boy. That was shortened to Blues Boy and that was shortened to B.B.
4. A Humble Beginning
“Three O’Clock Blues,” that was released in 1952 became King’s first national No. 1 song was recorded at a YMCA building in Memphis. The song became the biggest blues hit for the year of 1952. Sam Phillips, who is credited with starting the careers of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis, also produced some of King’s early records.
5. B.B. King did not play Chords?
There’s an urban legend out there claiming B.B. King did not play traditional chords, but don’t you believe it! He was famous for his ability to twist his fingers into a variety of contorted shapes. His distinctive solo style has been described as a string bending, butterfly vibrato trill.
6. He’s Number Six
Rolling Stone magazine named B.B. King him 6th on its list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists, right between Chuck Berry and Jeff Beck. And that’s pretty good company to be in!
7. B.B and the Prez
In 2012 B.B. King played for the White House Music Series saluting Blues Music. President Obama joined him in singing a rendition of ‘Sweet Home Chicago’. One might guess that it was one of his most memorable performances out of the estimated 15,000 appearances throughout his lifetime.
8. Seven Decades
In a career that lasted nearly seven decades, B.B. King inspired Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, Eric Clapton and untold generations of other guitarists, young and old, famous and not. His music never lost the weary sound of the impoverished Mississippi Delta in the small community of Itta Bena, Mississippi where he grew up picking cotton while being raised by his grandmother.
9. The Awards
By the numbers: King won 15 Grammy Awards (including for his biggest hit The Thrill is Gone in 1970), recorded more than 50 albums and toured the world well into his 80s. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2006.
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