The King of the Blues returns to Morristown for another amazing evening of music that only this legendary guitarist can deliver.
Throughout the 1990’s as well as the 1980’s, 1970’s, 1960’s and 1950’s, there has been only one King of the Blues – Riley B. King, affectionately known as B.B. King. Since B.B. started recording in the late 1940’s, he has released over 60 albums many of them considered blues classics, like 1965’s definitive live blues album “Live At The Regal”, and 1976’s collaboration with Bobby “Blue” Bland, “Together For The First Time”.
Over the years, B.B. has had two number one R & B hits, 1951’s “Three O’Clock Blues”, and 1952’s “You Don’t Know Me”, and four number two R & B hits, 1953’s “Please Love Me”, and 1954’s “You Upset Me Baby”, 1960’s “Sweet Sixteen, Part I”, and 1966’s “Don’t Answer The Door, Part I”. B.B.’s most popular crossover hit, 1970’s “The Thrill Is Gone” went to #15 pop.
Riley B. King was born on September 16, 1925, on a cotton plantation in Itta Bene, Mississippi, just outside the Mississippi delta town of Indianola. He used to play on the corner of Church and Second Street for dimes and would sometimes play in as many as four towns on a Saturday night. With his guitar and $2.50, he hitchhiked north to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1947 to pursue his musical career. Memphis was the city where every important musician of the South gravitated and which supported a large, competitive musical community where virtually every black musical style was heard. B.B. stayed with his cousin Bukka White, one of the most renowned rural blues performers of his time, who schooled B.B. further in the art of the blues.
B.B.’s first big break came in 1948 when he performed on Sonny Boy Williamson’s radio program on KWEM out of West Memphis. This led to steady performance engagements at the Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis and later to a ten minute spot on black staffed and managed radio station WDIA. “King’s Spot”, sponsored by Pepticon, a health tonic, became so popular that it was increased in length and became the “Sepia Swing Club”. Soon, B.B. needed a catchy radio name. What started out as Beale Street Blues Boy was shortened to Blues Boy King, and eventually B.B. King. Incidentally, King’s middle initial “B” is just that, it is not an abbreviation.
In the mid-1950’s while B.B. was performing at a dance in Twist, Arkansas, a few fans became unruly. Two men got into a fight and knocked over a kerosene stove, setting fire to the hall. B.B. raced outdoors to safety with everyone else, but then realized that he left his $30 guitar inside, so he rushed back inside to retrieve it, narrowly escaping death. When he later found out that the fight had been over a woman named Lucille, he decided to give the name to his guitar. Each one of B.B.’s guitars since that time have been called Lucille.
Soon after his number one hit, “Three O’Clock Blues”, B.B. began touring nationally, and he has never stopped, performing an average of 125 concerts a year. In 1956 B.B. and his band played an astonishing 342 one night stands. From the chitlin circuit with its small town cafes, ghetto theaters, country dance halls, and roadside joints to jazz clubs, rock palaces, symphony concert halls, college concerts, resort hotels and prestigious concert halls nationally and internationally, B.B. has become the most renowned blues musician of the past 60 years.
B.B.’s technique is nonetheless complex, featuring delicate filigrees of single string runs punctuated by loud chords, subtle vibratos, and “bent” notes. The technique of rock guitar playing is to a large degree derived from B.B.’s playing.
Over the years, B.B. has developed one of the world’s most readily identified guitar styles. He borrowed from Lonnie Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, T-Bone Walker and others, integrating his precise vocal like string bends and his left hand vibrato, both of which have become indispensable components of rock guitarist’s vocabulary. His economy, his every note counts phrasing, has been a model for thousands of players including Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Jeff Beck.
B.B. has mixed traditional blues, jazz, swing, mainstream pop and jump into a unique sound. His singing is richly melodic, both vocally and in the “singing” that comes from his guitar. In B.B’s words, “When I sing, I play in my mind; the minute I stop singing orally, I start to sing by playing Lucille”.
From 1967 until 1999 B.B. King had top hits and many events such as PBS Televising “All Day & All Night: Memories From Beale Street Musicians,”which featured B.B. King and captured the lifestyles of musicians who performed on Beale Street (Memphis, TN), “B.B. King’s Blue’s Club” opened in Memphis, and B.B. King releasing his 1999 tribute to Louis Jordan, “Let the Good Times Roll.”
Want to see this Blues King live?
You can save 20% on select seats to B.B. King live at Morristown Community Theatre tomorrow, Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 8:00 pm.
To order your discounted tickets, click here or call 973-539-8008 and use code 13KING.