65. B.B. King

Riley (B. B.) King was a blues singer and guitarist from Indianola, Mississippi. Born on a cotton plantation, young Riley moved in with his grandmother at four years old. He is related to the blues musician Booker “Bukka” White. King acquired his first guitar at age twelve, and eventually followed White to Memphis, Tennessee, first in 1946, and then returned in 1948 after working hard to improve his musicianship. He earned a small following during brief radio performances, and by 1949 was a well known disk jockey and singer on radio station WDIA. Around this time, he earned the nickname the Beale Street Blues Boy”, which was shortened “Blues Boy” and finally “B.B.”.


Riley “B.B.” King (1925-2015), singer, guitarist

The Story of “Lucille”, B.B. King’s Guitar
B.B. King: Analysis of the Artist’s Evolving Guitar Technique, by Jerry Richardson (PDF file)

The Prototypical Blues Guitarist

King’s long journey to worldwide fame begins in the early fifties, he was a consistent presence on rhythm and blues radio stations. His move to ABC-Paramount Records in 1962, followed by the classic Live At The Regal album in 1964, displays his growth as a musician. He finally crossed over into the mainstream pop world with the slow blues “The Thrill Is Gone”, which earned him a Grammy Award in 1970. After that, he was a famous and well-known traveling blues musician who toured and performed well into old age. The best known blues musician in the world, King has received countless accolades, which include induction into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1987.

By the time I left home for college, we had one B.B. King album, Back In The Alley, which featured a cross section of his sixties hits while recording for ABC Paramount records. Though it does not include “The Thrill Is Gone”, his biggest hit, it’s an excellent starting point for a first CD. There are several good compilations available; perhaps the best choice is B.B. King: The Ultimate Collection, but B.B. King’s best work is his live performances. The best choice for your island collection is Live At the Regal.

B.B. King is so well integrated into the fabric of American music, sometimes it’s hard to appreciate what an accomplished guitarist and singer he is. Most reputable publications rank him as among the top ten guitarists in pop music history. As discussed in Jerry Richardson’s analysis, King improved dramatically, learning and mastering soloing techniques, to become the classic blues soloist, clean and crisp and soulful. More than the other blues guitarists of the fifties and sixties, King is the prototype for the succeeding generation of white blues-based soloists of rock music.

“When I sing, I play in my mind; the minute I stop singing orally, I start to sing by playing Lucille.”

— B.B. King

B.B. King Song Notes:

The iTunes representation of B.B. King’s music is somewhat fractured. You can find the recommended songs in the following albums and compilations.

1. “Everyday I Have The Blues (Live)”
“Sweet Little Angel (Live)”
“It’s My Own Fault (Live)”
“How Blue Can You Get? (Live)”
“You Upset Me Baby (Live)”
“Worry, Worry (Live)”

can be found on Live At The Regal.

2. “How Blue Can You Get?”
“Paying The Cost To Be The Boss”
“Don’t Answer The Door”
“The Thrill Is Gone”
“There Must Be A Better World Somewhere”
“When Love Comes To Town”

can be found on Greatest Hits.

3. “Crying Won’t Help You” can be found on Singin’ The Blues.

4. “Sweet Sixteen (Live)” can be found on 20th Century Masters – The Millenium Collection.

5. “I’m Gonna Do What They Do To Me”
“Losing Faith In You”

can be found on Blues On Top On Blues.

6. “You Upset Me Baby”
“Every Day I Have The Blues”
“Three O’Clock Blues”
“Sweet Little Angel”
“Rock Me Baby”
“When My Heart Beats Like A Hammer”
“Mean Old Frisco”

can be found on Rock Me Baby 1950-1962.

7. “Why Does Everything Happen To Me”
“Just Like A Woman”

can be found on My Sweet Angel.

8. “Gambler’s Blues”
“Watch Yourself”

can be found on The Complete Collection.

9. “Sweet Sixteen (Parts 1 & 2)” can be found on Why I Sing The Blues.

B.B. King Songs:

Every Day I Have The Blues (Live), B.B. King ✭✭✭✭
Sweet Little Angel (Live), B.B. King ✭✭✭✭
Paying The Cost To Be The Boss, B.B. King ✭✭✭✭

It’s My Own Fault (Live), B.B. King ✭✭✭
How Blue Can You Get? (Live), B.B. King ✭✭✭
Crying Won’t Help You, B.B. King ✭✭✭
The Thrill Is Gone, B.B. King ✭✭✭
Sweet Sixteen (Parts 1 & 2) (Live), B.B. King ✭✭✭
How Blue Can You Get?, B.B. King ✭✭✭

Sweet Little Angel, B.B. King ✭✭
You Upset Me Baby, B.B. King ✭✭
Rock Me Baby, B.B. King ✭✭
Don’t Answer The Door, B.B. King ✭✭
There Must Be A Better World Somewhere, B.B. King ✭✭
Why Does Everything Happen To Me, B.B. King ✭✭
Every Day I Have The Blues, B.B. King ✭✭
Gambler’s Blues, B.B. King ✭✭
When Love Comes To Town (Live), U2 & B.B. King ✭✭

Three O’Clock Blues, B.B. King
You Upset Me Baby (Live), B.B. King
Worry, Worry (Live), B.B. King
I’m Going To Do What They Do To Me, B.B. King
Sweet Sixteen (Parts 1 & 2), B.B. King
Watch Yourself, B.B. King
Just Like A Woman (Rockin’ Twist), B.B. King
Losing Faith In You, B.B. King
When My Heart Beats Like A Hammer, B.B. King
Mean Old Frisco, B.B. King

Related Songs:

Rock Me Mama, Arthur Crudup ✭✭
Rock Me, Muddy Waters ✭✭✭✭
Rock Me (Alt), Muddy Waters ✭✭
Rockin’ & Rollin’, Lil’ Son Jackson ✭✭
Rock Me Baby (Live), Jimi Hendrix Experience

Every Day I Have The Blues, Count Basie ✭✭

Ain’t That Just Like A Woman, Louis Jordan & His Tympani Five ✭✭

B.B. King Medley, The Hour Glass

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