B.B. King was a blues singer and guitarist. His full name is Riley B. King. He was born September 16, 1925, near Indianola, Mississippi. An important aspect in King’s life was, of course, when he was first exposed to the blues. ‘I guess the earliest sound of the blues that I can rremember was in the fields while people would be pickin’ cotton or choppin’ or somethin,’ ” he told Living Blues . ” When I sing and play now I can hear those same sounds that I used to hear then as a kid.”
B.B. King’s first musical influence came through religion. He was a member of the Church of God In Christ. He was forbidden to play blues at home. He sang in spiritual groups like the Elkhorn Singers and the Saint John’s Gospel Singers. A relative who was a guitarist and a preacher showed King his first chords on the instrument. As a teenager he began playing streetcorners for coins, combining gospel songs with the blues. When he started making more money playing in one night then he would in a week on the farm, he decided to head to Memphis. After a few years, King went back to Indianola to work and repay some debts, eventually returning to Memphis to stay. King’s trademark is the trilling vibrato he developed in an attempt to duplicate the stinging sound of the steel slide. With the help of the late Sonny Boy William- son he began singing radio commercials and became a disc jockey. Later he played in small clubs, and then in larger venues in the mid-1960’s. He has toured extensively through- out the United States and around the world, appearing in concerts, at blues festivals, on television, and in films. How did Riley B. King receive the nickname B.B. King? Well, he was known as ” the blues boy from Beale Street,” later shortened to B.B. “Riley B. King is the world’s preeminent blues guitarist. There is hardly a rock, pop, or blues player anywhere who doesn’t owe him something.” Frank Sinatra and Nat Cole are two who use the “B.B. King style of blues.” Finally, I leave you with a quote. In a Rolling Stone interview King stated; ” I was always afraid to say that I was a blues singer. Because it looked like people kind of looked down on you a lot of times when you mention the word blues. But I thank God today I can stick out my chest and say, yeah, I’m a blues singer !”
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