July 5, 2012 - 8:30 pm
For over 6 decades, B.B. King has defined the blues for a worldwide audience. This living legend has released over 60 albums, won 15 Grammy Awards and been inducted into both the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The “King of the Blues” continues to bring his music to audiences around the globe with his beloved guitar, “Lucille”. His concert in Byblos will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear his amazing voice and instantly recognizable guitar style.
Riley B. King was born on September 16, 1925, on a cotton plantation in Itta Bene, Mississippi, just outside the Mississippi delta town of Indianola. He used to play on the corner of Church and Second Street for dimes and would sometimes play in as many as four towns on a Saturday night. With his guitar and $2.50, he hitchhiked north to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1947 to pursue his musical career. Memphis was the city where every important musician of the South gravitated and which supported a large, competitive musical community where virtually every black musical style was heard. B.B. stayed with his cousin Bukka White, one of the most renowned rural blues performers of his time, who schooled B.B. further in the art of the blues.
B.B.’s first big break came in 1948 when he performed on Sonny Boy Williamson’s radio program on KWEM out of West Memphis. This led to steady performance engagements at the Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis and later to a ten-minute spot on black staffed and managed radio station WDIA. “King’s Spot”, sponsored by Pepticon, a health tonic, became so popular that it was increased in length and became the “Sepia Swing Club”. Soon, B.B. needed a catchy radio name. What started out as Beale Street Blues Boy was shortened to Blues Boy King, and eventually B.B. King. Incidentally, King’s middle initial “B” is just that, it is not an abbreviation.
In the mid-1950’s 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, but then realized that he left his $30 guitar inside, so he rushed back inside 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. Each one of B.B.’s guitars since that time have been called Lucille.
Over the years, B.B. has had two number one R & B hits, 1951’s “Three O’Clock Blues”, and 1952’s “You Don’t Know Me”, and four number two R & B hits, 1953’s “Please Love Me”, and 1954’s “You Upset Me Baby”, 1960’s “Sweet Sixteen, Part I”, and 1966’s “Don’t Answer The Door, Part I”. B.B.’s most popular crossover hit, 1970’s “The Thrill Is Gone” went to #15 pop.
But B.B. King, as well as the entire blues genre, is not radio oriented. His classic songs such as “Payin’ The Cost To Be The Boss”, “Caldonia”, ” How Blue Can You Get”, “Everyday I Have The Blues”, and “Why I Sing The Blues”, are concert (and fan) staples.
Soon after his number one hit, “Three O’Clock Blues”, B.B. began touring nationally, and he has never stopped, performing an average of 125 concerts a year. In 1956 B.B. and his band played an astonishing 342 one-night stands. From the chitlin circuit with its small town cafes, ghetto theaters, country dance halls, and roadside joints to jazz clubs, rock palaces, symphony concert halls, college concerts, resort hotels and prestigious concert halls nationally and internationally, B.B. has become the most renowned blues musician of the past 60 years.
B.B.’s technique is nonetheless complex, featuring delicate filigrees of single string runs punctuated by loud chords, subtle vibratos, and “bent” notes. The technique of rock guitar playing is to a large degree derived from B.B.‘s playing.
Over the years, B.B. has developed one of the world’s most readily identified guitar styles. He borrowed from Lonnie Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, T-Bone Walker and others, integrating his precise vocal like string bends and his left hand vibrato, both of which have become indispensable components of rock guitarist’s vocabulary. His economy, his every note counts phrasing, has been a model for thousands of players. B.B. King is widely regarded as one of the most influential blues guitarists of all time, inspiring countless other electric blues and blues-rock guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Peter Green, Duane Allman, Elmore James, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Mike Bloomfield, Albert Collins, Freddie King, Otis Rush, Johnny Winter and Albert King.
B.B. has mixed traditional blues, jazz, swing, mainstream pop and jump into a unique sound. His singing is richly melodic: his gritty and confident voice is capable of wringing every nuance from any lyric and provides a worthy match for his passionate playing.
In the mid-Sixties, King’s hard work, musical genius, affable persona and revered stature among rock icons broadened his base of support to include a new audience of white listeners who tuned into the blues and stuck with King for the long haul. King came to the attention of yet another generation of younger listeners when he recorded “When Love Comes to Town” in 1988 with U2 for their Rattle and Hum album and movie.
In 1990 King Received the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 1991 the Orville H. Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from Gibson Guitar Company. In 1989, King‘s imprint was added to the Amsterdam, Holland Walk of Fame and in 1991 to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Over the years, B.B. has been bestowed fifteen Grammy Awards by his peers. He was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1984 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
B.B. King continues to record to this day, recording both compilations of classic songs with other top artists, and new collaborative material with artists like Eric Clapton. In 2012, at age 86, he continues to tour, pleasing crowds around the world. Time has no apparent effect on him other than to make him more popular, more cherished, more relevant than ever.
Even the President of the United States can’t say no to him: last February – during a concert held at the White House to celebrate Black History Month – Barack Obama found himself belting out a few bars of “Sweet Home Chicago”, upon B.B.‘s insistence!
That just goes to show how irresistible this legend is: on July 5, all of Byblos will be swaying to rhythm of the blues. The final word belongs to King himself, testifying on the healing quality of the genre he embodies: “it’s supposed to be good for whatever ailed you. It’s like a good liniment: take a taste of it and it’s good for whatever ailed you. Most people think that Blues is supposed to make you feel sad, but Blues can be something to boogie on like anything else: If you wanna boogie you can go ahead and shake what you got!”
- 1956 – Singin’ the Blues
- 1958 – The Blues
- 1959 – B. B. King Wails
- 1959 – Sings Spirituals
- 1960 – The Great B. B. King
- 1960 – My Kind of Blues
- 1960 – King of the Blues
- 1961 – Blues For Me
- 1962 – Blues in My Heart
- 1962 – Easy Listening Blues
- 1963 – B. B. King
- 1963 – Mr. Blues
- 1966 – Confessin’ the Blues
- 1968 – Blues on Top of Blues
- 1968 – Lucille
- 1969 – Live & Well
- 1969 – Completely Well
- 1970 – Indianola Mississippi Seeds
- 1971 – B. B. King in London
- 1972 – L.A. Midnight
- 1972 – Guess Who
- 1973 – To Know You Is to Love You
- 1974 – Friends
- 1977 – King Size
- 1978 – Midnight Believer
- 1979 – Take It Home
- 1981 – There Must Be a Better World Somewhere
- 1982 – Love Me Tender
- 1983 – Blues ‘N’ Jazz
- 1985 – Six Silver Strings
- 1989 – King of Blues
- 1991 – There is Always One More Time
- 1993 – Blues Summit
- 1995 – Lucille & Friends
- 1997 – Deuces Wild
- 1998 – Blues on the Bayou
- 1999 – Let the Good Times Roll
- 2000 – Riding with the King
- 2000 – Makin’ Love Is Good for You
- 2001 – A Christmas Celebration of Hope
- 2003 – Reflections
- 2005 – B. B. King & Friends: 80
- 2008 – One Kind Favor
- 1965 – Live at the Regal
- 1967 – Blues Is King
- 1967 – The Kings’ Jam (Live Bootleg) (w/Jimi Hendrix Live From the Generation Club, NY)
- 1970 – The Incredible Soul Of B B King
- 1971 – Live in Cook County Jail
- 1974 – Together for the First Time…Live (With Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland)
- 1976 – Bobby Bland and B. B. King Together Again…Live
- 1980 – Now Appearing at Ole Miss
- 1982 – Royal Jam
- 1983 – Why I Sing the Blues
- 1990 – B. B. King and Sons Live
- 1991 – Live at San Quentin
- 1991 – Live at the Apollo
- 1999 – Live in Japan
- 2007 – Forever Gold: B. B. King Live
- 2008 – Live at the BBC
- 2012 – Live at the The Royal Albert Hall 2011