After the death of his mother in 1934, Riley works on the Mississippi plantation and singing on Sundays in the church choir.
By 1940, having been influenced by guitarists such as Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, Elmore James, T-Bone Walker, and his cousin Bukka White, Riley learns the guitar. A little later, he forms a gospel group called the Elkhorn Singers.
Riley moves to memphis in 1948, where the harmonica player Sonny Boy Williamson II finds him his first engagements. On becoming a disc jockey for the station WDIA, he adopts the nickname Blues Boy King, which soon became BB.
B.B. King records his first tracks for the Bullet Record label in 1949, 'Miss Martha King', 'When Your Baby Packs Up and Goes', 'Got the Blues' and 'Take a Swing with Me'.
B.B. signs his first record deal for RPM Records in 1950, a new Los Angeles label, the following year he records 'Three O'Clock Blues'. It stays at Number 1 in the R&B charts for 15 weeks, and the in 1952 he records 'You Didn't Want Me', another hit.
B.B. and his band play in front of 2,400 people at the Savoy Ballroom, Hollywood in 1954, with Johnny Otis and the Platters.
In 1956 he plays a total of 342 one night concerts, he will maintain this type of work rate througout his career.
B.B. moves from the RPM label to ABC in 1962 for a free rumoured to be $25,000.
He records the album Live at the Regal in 1964, one of the finest live albums in the history of the blues.
B.B. one of the inspirations for british bands involved in the UK's burgeoning blues scene in the 1960's plays Manchester's Free Trade Hall in April 1969.
The album Completely Well released in 1970, which includes 'The Trill is Gone', sees him make a big impact on the rock audience.
He appears at the famous Sing Sing prison, New York State in 1972.
B.B. makes his first album with Bobby Bland in 1974, Together for the First Time...Live.
He was inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame in New York in 1987. Shortly aferwards, he was presented with a lifetime achievement award at the 30th annual Grammy award ceremony in recognition of his life's work.
He records 'When Love Comes to Town' with U2 in 1988, a song that features on their album Rattle and Hum.
The album There is always one more time is released in 1991, which includes 'I'm Moving On', 'Back in L.A.', 'Mean and Evil' and the title track 'There is always one more time'.
B.B. plays a series of successful dates in Europe in 1992.
In 1998 the album Blues On The Bayou is released which includes 'I'll Survive', 'Blues Man', 'Good Man Gone Bad' and 'Blues In "G". From the inside of this album B.B. says,
"Of the many records Lucille and I have had the pleasure of recording over the years, this one is especially close to my heart. It's also one of the most relaxed and, for me, most satisfying. I'd like to tell you how it came about. I stay open to suggestions, and over the past five decades I've enjoyed having others produce my music. Many of those producers were great, and many of those productions led to hits. But recently I've felt the urge to go back to basics. Maybe it's my age, I'm turning 73 this year or maybe my conviction that this current band is my best ever. Whatever the reason, I wanted to simplify. And this was my simple idea: Go to a studio and, without a lot of fanfare, cut B.B. King songs with B.B. King's band under B.B. King's supervision. Well, it worked. We went down south. We settled into a secluded state-of-the art studio in the country outside Lafayette, Louisiana. The setting was kicked back; the feeling was down-home. Me and the fellas had a ball. No one was telling us what to do. No one needed to tell us what to do. After all, this is the band I travel with-play with, live and die with-night after night, 225 nights a year. Found some old B.B. King songs. Wrote some new ones. Got to the studio about 11 a.m. and recorded till we got tired. Working that way, the record was cut in four days. All live, all real. No overdubs, no high-tech tricks. Just basic blues. My sincrer wish is that these blues bring you as much pleasure as they bring me. And thanks for keeping me and Lucille in your heart for all these years". B.B. King as told to David Ritz
P.S. In case you're interested my favorite is 'I'll Survive'. a song I wrote in the 1950's. I sang it then, but I'm not sure I understood it. Now I know the meaning of survival.
Released on 19th April 1999 to coincide with the tour the double CD His Definitive Greatest Hits with 32 tracks including 'The Thrill is Gone', 'Paying The Cost To Be The Boss', 'Since I Met You Baby' with Gary Moore and 'When Love Comes To Town' with U2, which I have added to my collection.
B.B. King one of the hardest working men in the music business, at the age of 73, plays at the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester on 29 April 1999 the eighth in a ten day tour. He was supported by John Mayall the bluesman from Macclesfield, Cheshire, UK and the Bluesbreakers.
The gig started at 7.30 p.m. with two fine numbers from the Bluesbreakers, being Buddy Whittington (Guitar), John Paulus (Bass) and Joe Yuele (Drums), before the introduction of John Mayall the granddaddy of British Blues and they played for about an hour until the interval.
After the break we had two numbers from BB's band which was James Bolden and Stanley Abernathy (Trumpets), Melvin Jackson (Saxophone), Calep Emphrey Jr (Drums), James Toney (keyboards), Michael Doster (Bass) and last, but by no means least, Leon Warren (Guitar).
Then the moment we had all come for the introduction of the King of Blues, Mr B.B. King, he played his first number standing and then the rest seated for two hours non-stop, songs old and new, found on the above listed CD's, for me it was fantastic and a very special birthday present from my wife.
The zig-zag gigs start in Cardiff then across to Southend up to Newcastle and further up to Glasgow, a days break on the sunday, then back down to Sheffield across the water to Belfast back to Birmingham up to Manchester then back down south again to Brighton and to finish in Bournemouth, i'm exausted just writing about the tour.
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At 75, BB King has earned the right to sit down on the job. He began a punishing touring schedule in 1952 and has barely relented ever since. The knees may now be too creaky for him to stand before us, but that genial roar remains just as potent and his fingers still find those familiar patterns around the fretboard. The BB King concert experience is always a mixed bag, though. His desire to make the blues appeal to the widest possible audience means he too often falls back on slick cabaret interpretations even of his own greatest songs like The Thrill Is Gone. But there were glimmers last night of what made Riley "Blues Boy" King not just one of the great bluesmen, but also an inspiration to a legion of rock stars. The first golden moment was the slow sad blues Peace Of Mind, BB telling how he has "never had peace of mind in my life". The other hightlights came, perhaps surprisingly, when the brass section left the stage. After a couple of instrumentals, BB returned to that favourite bluesman's territory, the foibles of the female of the species, with Ain't That Just Like A Woman and Downhearted. He was given a standing ovation when he come on, and another when he left. The big man gladhanded fans, signed autographs and handed out plectrums. It was one gig in many thousands for the man who once worked as a sharecropper on a Mississippi plantation and ended up one of the most influential and best-loved figues in popular music. But we went away happy, having seen generous flashes of the talent of the man who, with the recent death of John Lee Hooker, is now the undisputed elder statesman of the blues.
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