B.B. King began singing at age of four years. He was gained a Presidential Medal of Freedom at age of eighty-one for his long career of singing blues very well. The title of this kind is based on a sentence “feeling blue” which basically means feeling sad. At that time most of the African American people were slaves so they sang blues to show their sadness and other emotions.
Growing Up in Mississippi
B. B. King’s real name was Riley B. King, he was born in Indianola. It was 1925 then he was a child growing up in Mississippi. His grandparents were growing plantations, he worked there. He had two favourite activities, the first was going to school, and the second was music and singing in church. Then Riley was nine his mother died. A few years later his grandfather died too. He stayed in a little house with his grandmother. Then he made his own house and was living there. Then his father understood that his son was living alone he took him and Riley began living with him, but later he became homesick and returned back to his house.
When Riley was a small boy he was very fascinated and enjoyed listening to music. His favourite kind of music was blues. Riley loved visiting his Aunt Mima because she had a phonograph player and something around fifty records. Also he liked the gospel music which was played in the church nearby. His first chords on the guitar began when he picked up a guitar that the Pastor left while eating with Riley’s relatives. As he was trying to play the guitar the Pastor heard him and taught him basics.
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Like a Kid in a Candy Store
Riley bought his first guitar then he was 15. He practised all the time then he wasn’t working. He played on street corners for money. Later he joined a group that was called “The Famous St. John Gospel Singers”, but they weren’t famous at all. Riley tried to make them move Memphis. In Memphis in 1940s, he wanted a shot at fame. But his teammates didn’t want to move there. Riley got married and settled farm working. One day he accidentally crashed his boss's tractor. So he ran away. With only 2.50 $ in his pocket he hiked to Memphis. Where everywhere were musicians, he felt like a kid in a candy store
After Riley moved to Memphis he looked and played with musicians from the Beale street. After a few months when nothing happened he missed and felt guilty for the things he have done in Indianola. As he went back he paid the farmer for the tractor and took his wife and moved back. When he decided to try again playing he became successful and his face was mostly recognized.
On the Air
At that time not many radios played African American music. But one station, WDIA decided to attract more listeners by playing blues and jazz. Riley B. got a job at that station., he was advertizing medicine called Pepticon. He also had a job at playing music in restaurant. He drew large audiences and his musical career began to take off.
From Beale Street Blues Boy to B.B.
When Riley became popular radio station named WDIA decided to give him a shorter and catchier name. First they came up with an idea to call him Beale Street Blues Boy. As his name was too long they changed it to Blues Boy King. Later on it changed to Bee Bee King and later to B.B. King which stayed.
By 1950, B. B. King had his own radio show!!! He played a lot of music. But he never played his own music oh his channel, he only prefered somebody’s music because playing his own would be like bragging. One of his favourite songs was “Three O'clock Blues” by Lowell Fulson. “Three O'clock Blues” made B. B. King a national star. For five weeks it was the bestselling song. And at that time everyone wanted to listen to him. He started riding around the country and playing concerts.
Many people saw that B.B. King in his career really was getting emotional when singing on the stage. You could see sadness, tears although he was very happy and he enjoyed what he did.
When B.B. played he sing by himself and makes his guitar sing also. He thinks of his guitar like a woman with beautiful voice. His guitar's name is lucille, she got her name by this story. Once B.B king ran out of a burning building, but he realized that his guitar is still there. He grabbed his guitar and barely made it out alive. Later he discovered that the fire started because of two men arguing over a woman name Lucille. More that once he had his guitar stolen from him. One time this happened and he didn’t have money for a new one. He needed a guitar to play the concerts, so he sneaked on the church and borrowed a guitar. Later he returned it with some money inside.
In year 1960s B.B. King was annoyed that his audience were only African American people. He wanted to let everyone hear his music and enjoy it. He did not know that many people knew him even the British group “The Rolling Stones” really liked his songs. By this band he could share his music to everyone and make his audience wider. Lead guitarist, Mike Bloomfield, actually said that he learnt some tricks by watching B.B. King. When people asked who B.B. King was he told them that he is the real monster. 1967 King played his first concert for everyone. Later in 1969 he recorded his first song called “The Thrill Is Gone” which made him a national celebrity.
B.B King was a very polite guy, he never left someone in trouble, he said “ If I’m working with you and I sense you’re feeling a little insecure, I try to make you feel great. From the time then he was young, he had great feelings for people. Before his mother died she told him to always be very nice to everyone. If someone was mean to him, he would never take revenge.
Honoring B.B. King
B.B. King was known as the blues king. Copies of his guitar - Lucille cost many thousands of dollars.
Some of the awards he earned:
- B.B. King was one of the first musicians inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
- B.B King has won more than a dozen Grammy Awards, including a special Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
- In 2006, President George W. Bush awarded B.B. King the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award given by the American government to a civilian.
To most musicians B.B. Kings guitar sound is mostly recognizable. He had his own style. He was a great performer. There always were a lot of musicians to credit B.B. King. People always there thinking great things about him. Once John Lennon from the Beatles said that he would like to play as good as B.B King.