55 Facts About BB King


BB King introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending, shimmering vibrato, and staccato picking that influenced many later blues electric guitar players.


BB King performed tirelessly throughout his musical career, appearing on average at more than 200 concerts per year into his 70s.


BB King was born on a cotton plantation of Berclair near the city of Itta Bena, Mississippi, and later worked at a cotton gin in Indianola, Mississippi.


BB King was attracted to music and taught himself to play guitar and began his career in juke joints and local radio.


BB King later lived in Memphis and Chicago; then, as his fame grew, he toured the world extensively.


Riley B King was born on September 16,1925, on a cotton plantation of Berclair named Bear Creek in Leflore County, near the city of Itta Bena, Mississippi, the son of sharecroppers Albert and Nora Ella King.


When BB King was four years old, his mother left his father for another man, so he was raised by his maternal grandmother, Elnora Farr, in Kilmichael, Mississippi, then in Lexington.

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BB King served in the US Army during World War II but was released after being ruled as "essential to the war economy" based on his experience as a tractor driver.


BB King was attracted to the Pentecostal Church of God in Christ because of its music.


BB King listened to it while on break at a plantation.


In 1943, BB King left Kilmichael to work as a tractor driver and play guitar with the Famous St John's Gospel Singers of Inverness, Mississippi, performing at area churches and on WGRM in Greenwood, Mississippi.


BB King returned shortly afterward to Mississippi, where he decided to prepare himself better for the next visit.


BB King performed on Sonny Boy Williamson's radio program on KWEM in West Memphis, where he began to develop an audience.


BB King's appearances led to steady engagements at the Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis and later to a ten-minute spot on the Memphis radio station WDIA.


BB King performed with Bobby Bland, Johnny Ace, and Earl Forest in a group known as the Beale Streeters.


In 1949, BB King began recording songs under contract with Los Angeles-based RPM Records, a subsidiary of Modern.


BB King's recording contract was followed by tours across the United States, with performances in major theatres in cities such as Washington, DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, and St Louis, as well as numerous gigs in small clubs and juke joints of the southern United States.


BB King evacuated with the rest of the crowd but returned to retrieve his guitar.


BB King said he later discovered that the two men were fighting over a woman named Lucille.


BB King named the guitar Lucille as a reminder not to fight over women or run into any more burning buildings.


In 1962, BB King signed to ABC-Paramount Records, which was later absorbed into MCA Records.


In November 1964, BB King recorded the Live at the Regal album at the Regal Theater.


BB King gained further visibility among rock audiences as an opening act on the Rolling Stones' 1969 American Tour.


In 1988, BB King reached a new generation of fans with the single "When Love Comes to Town", a collaborative effort between BB King and the Irish band U2 on their Rattle and Hum album.


In 2000, he and Clapton teamed up again to record Riding With the BB King, which won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album.

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BB King successfully worked both sides of the commercial divide, with sophisticated recordings and "raw, raucous" live performances.


In 2006, BB King went on a "farewell" world tour, although he remained active afterward.


The tour was partly supported by Northern Irish guitarist, Gary Moore, with whom BB King had previously toured and recorded.


In June 2006, BB King was present at a memorial of his first radio broadcast at the Three Deuces Building in Greenwood, Mississippi, where an official marker of the Mississippi Blues Trail was erected.


In 2007, BB King played at Eric Clapton's second Crossroads Guitar Festival and contributed the songs "Goin' Home", to Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino and "One Shoe Blues" to Sandra Boynton's children's album Blue Moo, accompanied by a pair of sock puppets in a music video for the song.


BB King performed at the Mawazine festival in Rabat, Morocco on May 27,2010.


In June 2010, BB King performed at the Crossroads Guitar Festival with Robert Cray, Jimmie Vaughan, and Eric Clapton.


BB King contributed to Cyndi Lauper's album Memphis Blues, which was released on June 22,2010.


In 2011, BB King played at the Glastonbury Music Festival, and in the Royal Albert Hall in London, where he recorded a concert video.


On February 21,2012, BB King was among the performers of "In Performance at the White House: Red, White and Blues," during which President Barack Obama sang part of "Sweet Home Chicago".


On July 5,2012, BB King performed a concert at the Byblos International Festival in Lebanon.


On May 26,2013, BB King appeared at the New Orleans Jazz Festival.


BB King did not reschedule the shows, and the House of Blues show would be the last before his death in 2015.


BB King used equipment characteristic of the different periods he played in.


BB King played guitars made by various manufacturers early in his career.


BB King played a Fender Esquire on most of his recordings with RPM Records.


BB King later moved on from the larger Gibson hollow-bodied instruments, which were prone to feedback when played at high volumes, to various semi-hollow models, beginning first with the ES-335 and then a deluxe version called the ES-355, which employed a stereo option.


BB King made guest appearances in numerous popular television shows including: The Cosby Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Young and the Restless, General Hospital, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Sesame Street, Married.


BB King was married twice, to Martha Lee Denton, November 1946 to 1952, and to Sue Carol Hall, 1958 to 1966.


In May 2016, the 11 surviving children initiated legal proceedings against BB King's appointed trustee over his estimated $30 million to $40 million estate.

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BB King was an FAA-certified private pilot and learned to fly in 1963 at what was then Chicago Hammond Airport in Lansing, Illinois.


BB King frequently flew to gigs, but in 1995 his insurance company and manager asked him to fly only with another certified pilot.


BB King credited Sinatra for opening doors to black entertainers who were not given the chance to play in "white-dominated" venues.


In September 1970, BB King recorded Live in Cook County Jail, during a time in which issues of race and class in the prison system were prominent in politics.


BB King co-founded the Foundation for the Advancement of Inmate Rehabilitation and Recreation, tying in his support for prisoners and interest in prison reform.


In 2002, BB King signed on as an official supporter of Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit organization that provides free musical instruments and instruction to children in underprivileged public schools throughout the United States.


BB King sat on the organization's Honorary Board of Directors.


BB King appeared in several television commercials for OneTouch Ultra, a blood glucose monitoring device, beginning in the early 2000s.


Two of his daughters alleged that BB King was deliberately poisoned by two associates trying to induce diabetic shock; an autopsy showed no evidence of such.


BB King's body was then driven down Route 61 to his hometown of Indianola, Mississippi.