Riley B. King (September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015), known professionally as B.B. King, was an American blues singer, electric guitarist, songwriter, and record producer. He was born on a cotton plantation in Berclair, Mississippi and later worked on a cotton gin in Indianola, Mississippi. He was a self-taught guitarist and learned to play while very young living on the plantation. He enjoyed playing the guitar in church as he got a little older and eventually started playing in juke joints like today’s clubs. King introduced his own personal style of soloing based on fluid string bending and shimmering vibrato that influenced many later electric blues guitarists. He was nicknamed “The King of the Blues” as he was known for performing blues constantly for many decades. On average he performed 300 times per year and into his 70’s he was performing over 200 times a year. He was still performing into his late 80’s until he died at age 89.
There are many colorful stories about B.B. King as one would imagine there would be when performing almost every night of the year. In the mid-1950s, 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, then realized that he left his beloved $30 acoustic guitar inside, so he rushed back inside the burning building 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 to remind him never to do a crazy thing like fight over a woman. Ever since, each one of B.B.’s trademark Gibson guitars has been called Lucille.
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