If you ask anyone to name a blues man, chances are the first name that will come to mind will be B.B. King, aka “The King of the Blues”. It’s been said of him that he “arguably did more for bringing blues to white America than any other musician”. Rolling Stone magazine named him their choice for the #3 greatest guitarist of all time. He’s amassed an incredible 13 Grammy® statues, including Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for the track “The Thrill Is Gone” all the way through to 2005’s award for Best Traditional Blues Album to 80. On May 27, 2007 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music from Rhode Island’s Brown University, in addition to those he received from the University of Mississippi in 2004, Yale in 1977 and Berklee School of Music in 1982. He is also a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2006), the Polar Prize (2004), The National Medal of Arts (1990), a Grammy® Lifetime Achievement Award (1987), Kennedy Center Honors (1995), and was one of the first inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
He was born Riley B. King near Indianola, Mississippi on September 16, 1925. Since beginning his recording career in the 1940’s, King has released more than 50 albums. His first forays into music though, began early in his youth, when he performed on street corners. He made his way to Memphis, THE place to be for any musician of note, in 1947 to further his pursuit of a music career. It was while in Memphis that B.B. got his first big break. He appeared on Sonny Boy Williamson’s radio program on KWEM, which led to B.B. getting regular gigs at the Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis.
It was in the mid-50’s that the legend of Lucille came to be. Lucille has been the name given to B.B.’s guitars since that time. The story goes that B.B. was playing at a dance in Twist, Arkansas when a fight broke out between two men. During the course of that fight, a kerosene lamp was knocked over and set the building ablaze. Although B.B. made it out safely with the others, he realized he’d left his beloved guitar behind and risked his life to run back into the building to rescue it. He later found out the cause of the fight was a woman named Lucille. He decided then to name his guitar after the woman as a reminder “never to do a crazy thing like fight over a woman.” When Gibson began manufacturing their signature B.B. King guitars, the name Lucille was a natural choice, and has remained so ever since.
Throughout his career, B.B.’s distinctive Mississippi Delta style has influenced some of the most well-known guitarists in modern music. Names such as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughan, U2, The Rolling Stones, and Robert Cray count him as an influence. Although he’s now 88 years old, King still tours and performs as regularly as he always has. As a matter of fact, between June and September, 2007, King had an astonishing 42 dates scheduled. In 2005, B.B. put out the album 80, in celebration of his 80th birthday. It was on this duets album that Mark appeared, playing guitar on the track “All Over Again”.