*According to a USA Today report, blues legend B.B. King – who’s been in failing health for the last several weeks – has died, according to his attorney. He passed away on Thursday at 9:40pm at his home in Las Vegas. King, an American blues musician, singer, songwriter, and guitarist, was 89.
King, who was diagnosed with diabetes in 1990, played concert dates in 90 countries and routinely continued to perform 100-150 shows a year until late in his career.
From B.B. King’s Wikipedia page:
Riley B. King was born on September 16, 1925, on a cotton plantation near the town of Itta Bena, Mississippi, the son of sharecroppers Albert and Nora Ella King. He considers the nearby city of Indianola, Mississippi to be his home. When Riley was 4 years old, his mother left his father for another man, and the boy was raised by his maternal grandmother, Elnora Farr, in Kilmichael, Mississippi.
While young, King sang in the gospel choir at Elkhorn Baptist Church in Kilmichael. It seems that at the age of 12, he purchased his first guitar for $15.00, although another source indicates he was given his first guitar by Bukka White, his mother’s first cousin (King’s grandmother and White’s mother were sisters). In 1943, King left Kilmichael to work as a tractor driver and play guitar with the Famous St. John’s Quartet of Inverness, Mississippi, performing at area churches and on WGRM in Greenwood, Mississippi.
In 1946, King followed Bukka White to Memphis, Tennessee. White took him in for the next ten months. However, King shortly returned to Mississippi, where he decided to prepare himself better for the next visit, and returned to West Memphis, Arkansas, two years later in 1948. He performed on Sonny Boy Williamson’s radio program on KWEM in West Memphis, where he began to develop an audience. 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. King’s Spot became so popular, it was expanded and became the Sepia Swing Club.
Initially he worked at WDIA as a singer and disc jockey, gaining the nickname Beale Street Blues Boy, which was later shortened to Blues Boy and finally to B.B. It was there that he first met T-Bone Walker. King said, “Once I’d heard him for the first time, I knew I’d have to have [an electric guitar] myself. ‘Had’ to have one, short of stealing”!
King has been married twice, to Martha Lee Denton, 1946 to 1952, and to Sue Carol Hall, 1958 to 1966. Both marriages ended because of the heavy demands made on the marriage by King’s 250 performances a year. It is reported that he has fathered 15 children and, as of 2004, had 50 grandchildren. He has lived with Type II diabetes for over 20 years and is a high-profile spokesman in the fight against the disease, appearing in advertisements for diabetes-management products along with American Idol season 9 contestant Crystal Bowersox.
King is an FAA licensed Private Pilot and learned to fly in 1963 at what was then Chicago Hammond Airport in Lansing, Illinois. He frequently flew to gigs, but under the advice of his insurance company and manager in 1995, King was asked to fly only with another licensed pilot; and as a result, King stopped flying around the age of 70.
His favorite singer is Frank Sinatra. In his autobiography King speaks about how he was, and is, a “Sinatra nut” and how he went to bed every night listening to Sinatra’s classic album In the Wee Small Hours. King has credited Sinatra for opening doors to black entertainers who were not given the chance to play in “white-dominated” venues; Sinatra got B.B. King into the main clubs in Las Vegas during the 1960s.[page needed]
On May 1, 2015, after two hospitalizations caused by complications from high blood pressure and diabetes, King announced on his website that he was in hospice care at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Read MORE at Wikipedia.
How about a salute to the King of the Blues with his classic hit, “The Thrill is Gone”: