Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Thrill is Gone: King of Blues BB King passed away at 89

Riley B. King the legendary blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist known by his stage name B.B. King passed away on 14th May 2015 in Las Vegas. King introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending and shimmering vibrato that would influence virtually every electric blues guitarist that followed. He was considered one of the most influential blues musicians of all time, earning the nickname “The King of the Blues“, and one of the “Three Kings of the Blues Guitar” (along with Albert King and Freddie King). Ranked No. 17 in Gibson’s “Top 50 Guitarists of All Time”, King was known for performing tirelessly throughout his musical career, appearing at more than 200 concerts per year on average, 342 shows alone in 1956.

For most of a career spanning nearly 70 years, Riley B. King was not only the undisputed king of the blues and recorded more than 50 albums and toured the world well into his 80s. King married country blues to big city rhythms and created a sound instantly recognizable to millions playing a Gibson guitar he affectionately called Lucille. He was known for his signature sound that included beautiful solo runs punctuated by loud chords, shimmering vibratos and bent notes. His style was unusual. King didn’t like to sing and play at the same time, so he developed a call-and-response between him and Lucille. “I wanted to connect my guitar to human emotions,” Mr. King said in his autobiography, “Blues All Around Me” (1996), written with David Ritz. The Mississippi native’s reign as “king of the blues” lasted more than six decades and two centuries. His playing style influenced a generation of rock and blues musicians, from Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughan to Sheryl Crow and John Mayer.

King was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1984, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and received the Songwriters Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush, gave a guitar to Pope John Paul II and had President Barack Obama sing along to his “Sweet Home Chicago.” Other Grammys included best male rhythm `n’ blues performance in 1971 for “The Thrill Is Gone,” best ethnic or traditional recording in 1982 for “There Must Be a Better World Somewhere” and best traditional blues recording or album several times. His final Grammy came in 2009 for best blues album for “One Kind Favor.”

Mr. King struggled with a weight problem and was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the 1980s. In later years, his condition forced him to perform in a chair. After the cancellation of the remaining eight shows of his 2014 tour because of health problems, King announced on October 8, 2014, he was back at home to recuperate. He passed away in his sleep on May 14, 2015 from a series of small strokes caused by Type 2 diabetes. He often reminded people of those hard times when he told the story of the 1949 fire in which he nearly lost his guitar.“I usually say you can get another guitar but not another B.B. King.” King held honorary doctorates from several American universities, and his life and career are remembered at the BB King Museum and Delta Interpretive Centre in Mississippi.