Blues legend BB King dies at the age of 89

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: May 15, 2015 20:22 IST

BB King, for decades the undisputed 'king of the blues', has died in Las Vegas at the age of 89, his attorney said.

Born as Riley B King, the son of sharecroppers in the southern US state of Mississippi, the musician began his recording career in 1949 and continued touring till 2014.

In the late 1940s, he adopted the name BB King, which was a shortened version of the nickname - Beale Street Blues Boy -he was given when he became a radio jockey.

At a time when the blues switched from acoustic to electric, King developed a unique guitar sound by bending the strings and using vibrato. His guitar playing would influence generations of guitarists, including Eric Clapton, who later recorded an album with BB King.

King released scores of albums and toured relentlessly, playing up to 300 concerts a year till his seventies. Even till a few years ago, he played up to 100 concerts a year despite suffering from several illnesses, including diabetes.

BB King's guitar playing would influence generations of guitarists, including Eric Clapton. (Twitter)

Last October, King was forced to cancel the remainder of his tour after falling ill during a show in Chicago. King often remarked during interviews that he loved playing for music lovers around the world.

On May 1, a message posted on his official website had said: "I am in home hospice care at my residence in Las Vegas. Thanks to all for your well wishes and prayers."

King scored his first big hit with the tune 'Three O'clock Blues' in the early 1950s and went on to record classics such as 'The Thrill Is Gone', 'Paying The Cost To Be The Boss', 'How Blue Can You Get', 'Everyday I Have The Blues', 'Why I Sing The Blues', 'Sweet Sixteen Part I' and 'Don't Answer The Door'.

His playing also had an unusual kink -- he could not play guitar and sing at the same time.

King, who had relationships with several women, was engaged in a legal tussle between some of his children and his longtime manager at the time of his death. Three of his 11 children had appeared in a Las Vegas court recently to take control of King's affairs. They said they suspected King's manager was stealing his money and neglecting his medical care.

The court tossed out the dispute, saying there was no evidence King was being abused, and that his manager Laverne Toney should remain in control of his affairs.

For decades, BB King and his guitar Lucille thrilled countless fans round the world as the blues legend knocked out one classic tune after another.

There is an unusual story behind King’s decision to name every guitar he played Lucille that goes back to the mid-1950s. While performing in a dance hall in Arkansas, King had to run out of the venue when it caught fire after two men got into a fight and knocked over a kerosene stove. King then realized he had left his $30 acoustic guitar inside and rushed back into the burning building to retrieve it.

When he later found out that the fight was over a woman named Lucille, he decided to give the name to all his guitars to remind him never to do a crazy thing like fight over a woman.

Here’s a playlist looking at the best of BB King and Lucille:

Three O’clock Blues

Every Day I Have The Blues

How Blue Can You Get

Guess Who

The Thrill Is Gone

Sweet Sixteen


Don’t Answer The Door

Live In Africa

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