Saturday, August 8, 2009

B.B. King - King of the Blues

by Brent Warnken

B.B. King is hailed as the reigning king of blues and is considered to be the single most important guitarist of the last half century. Get B.B. King tickets and see a legend performing on stage. He is known for his gritty and confident voice and for bending his notes and Staccato picking style.

Between 1951 and 1985, King produced an impressive 74 entries on Billboard's R&B charts. The blues artist was one of the few blues singers to score a huge pop hit when his 1970 hit "The Thrill is Gone" crossed over to mainstream success. King gave two brilliant performances of "The Thrill is Gone" on the "Ed Sullivan Show" and "American Bandstand." Since that time, the Blues musician has teamed up with Eric Clapton and U2 while continuing a successful solo career.

King was born in 1925 near the town of Itta Bena, Mississippi. He was shuttled between his mother's home and his grandmother's residence as a child, his father having left the family when King was very young. The young lad worked as a sharecropper and sang at church before he moved to Indianola, another town located in the heart of the Mississippi Delta.

By 1949, King made his first four tracks for Jim Bulleit's Bullet Records before he signed a contract with the Bihari Brothers' Los Angeles-based PRM Records. The blues singer produced "Three O'Clock Blues," his first national R&B chart-topper in 1951. During this time, the musician first named his beloved guitar "Lucille."

King was playing in a small joint in Arkansas called Twist when a brawl broke out between two jealous men over a lady. They knocked over a kerosene-filled garbage pail that was heating the place, which caused a fire. King quickly left not realizing he left his guitar inside. He foolishly ran back to retrieve his guitar, dodging the flames and almost losing his life. When the fire was put out, King learned that the two fellows were fighting over a woman named Lucille. A company named Gibson has marketed a B.B. approved guitar model under the name. In the 1950's King recorded most of his songs in Los Angeles.

During this decade, the musician scored 20 chart items, including "You Know I Love You" (1952); "Woke Up This Morning" and "Please Love Me" (1953); "When My Heart Beats like a Hammer," "Whole Lotta' Love," and "You Upset Me Baby" (1954); "Every Day I Have the Blues," "Sneakin' Around," and "Ten Long Years" (1955); "Bad Luck," "Sweet Little Angel," and "On My Word of Honor" (1956). In 1960, King's two sided revival of Joe Turner's "Sweet Sixteen" became a huge seller, while "Partin' Time" and "Got a Right to Love My Baby' were also big hits.

King moved over to ABC-Paramount Records in 1962, following the lead of Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, and Ray Charles. Two years later, the blues artist released Live at the Regal album at the Chicago Theater. That same year, he produced a minor hit called "How Blue Can Get You Get." In 1966, the guitarist had two songs in the Top Ten R&B entries, "Paying the Cost to Be the Boss" and "Don't Answer the Door."

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