Riley B. King, popularly known as B.B. King, was born on September 16, 1925, and was a well-known singer, songwriter, guitarist, and record producer. He was also a principal figure in the formation and development of blues as a genre, thereby creating the style that artists continue to draw inspiration from even today! King was known to bend the guitar strings like no other and his music turned him into a revered idol for an entire generation of musicians. As today is his birthday, it is perhaps the best time to look across the well-chronicled lifetime and the vast accomplishments of the legendary artist!
Riley B. King
September 16, 1925
May 14, 2015 (age 89)
Riley B. King, popularly known as B.B. King, was born on a cotton plantation near Itta Bena, Mississippi. He was the son of Nora Ella And Albert King. When he was four years of age, his mother left his father, and King was raised by his maternal grandmother named Elnora Farr.
While young, he took part in the gospel choir at Kilmichael’s Elkhorn Baptist Church. Due to its music, the singer developed an interest and attraction toward the Pentecostal Church of God in Christ. He learned his first three chords on the guitar from the local minister who performed with the instrument during services. When he was in Helena, Arkansas, King was inspired to become a radio musician while listening to the broadcast of “King Biscuit Time” at a plantation. In 1943, he decided to work as a tractor driver. Alongside this job, he played the guitar with gospel singers of Inverness, Mississippi. Soon afterward, he began performing at area churches.
In 1948, he began to garner an audience with his performance on a KWEM radio program in West Memphis, Arkansas. Thereafter, he bagged a 10-minute spot at WDIA, which became so popular that it was expanded to create the Sepia Swing Club. He worked as a singer and disc jockey at WDIA, where he earned the nickname “Beale Street Blues Boy,” which was later shortened to “Blues Boy,” and then to the famous “B.B.” King started recording songs with RPM records in 1949, making a debut with his single ‘Miss Martha King.’
He begins his journey at Beale Street with his group The Beale Streeters.
King starts recording songs with RPM Records.
King opens the original B.B. King’s Blues Club in Memphis.
King receives a Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for his song ‘The Thrill is Gone.’
The County Music Association recognizes “Rhythm, Country and Blues” as the album of the year.
Why We Love BB King
B.B. King is a legendary figure who has achieved milestones that most artists only dream of. Throughout his career, he racked up a whopping 30 Grammy nominations. King is also the winner of the most number of Grammys in the genre, with 15 awards to his name.
His sense of humor
At one of his events, a fire broke out when two men started a brawl over a woman named Lucille, knocking over a kerosene heater. He later named his guitar “Lucille,” in a bid to constantly remind himself “never to do anything that foolish.”
King spread a universal message of peace, joy, love, and hope. Moreover, the artist played in numerous prisons over the years, including his performance at a correctional facility in Florida in 1992. In addition, his iconic album titled “1971 Live From Cook County Jail” was named by Rolling Stones as one of the most influential albums of all time.
5 Surprising Facts
A loan bought his first guitar
When King was 15, his employer bought him a guitar for $15 and withheld his salary for the subsequent two months till the debt was repaid.
He broke record
King is the only Blues musician to win 15 Grammy Awards — the highest in the genre!
He’s a source of inspiration
The renowned artist, John Lennon, once said in an interview that he wanted to play the guitar like King.
He could fly
King was a licensed aviator and sometimes even flew to his gigs!
He was a vegetarian
Although his music has been used in commercials by McDonald’s and Wendys', King was a vegetarian.
BB King FAQs
How old was B.B. King when he died?
At the time of his passing, King was 89 years of age.
Where was B.B. King buried?
He was buried in Indianola, where he first played his guitar and sang on its street corners as a young man. Today, the B.B. King Museum stands at the spot outside which lies his gravesite.
Did B.B. King have biological children?
Although the artist had 15 kids with 15 women, some reports suggest that he was sterile due to an illness and an accident.
BB King’s birthday dates