Legendary guitarist passes away...
BB King

Born Riley B. King in a rural area of Mississippi, the future BB King came of age in a family steeped in music.

The singer's cousin Bukka White was a noted Delta blues musician, but King found that he simply couldn't play slide like him. Instead, the aspiring guitarist was drawn to the smoother, more sophisticated styles of T-Bone Walker, and the emerging electric styles.

Gigging almost continually, BB King first caught widespread attention following a slot on Memphis radio station WDIA. A popular singer and disc jockey, this is where Riley B. King became known as the Beale Street Blues Boy – or simply BB for short.

Recording with a series of labels, BB King delivered his first classic in 1952 with the enormous success of '3 O' Clock Blues'. Touring nationally, the singer honed his style in the jook joints of America, developing a smooth yet soulful horn-infused approach amidst the most demanding of audiences.

After witnessing a fight in Arkansas, the singer asked what has prompted such violence. Told that the men had been fighting over a woman, BB King decided to name his guitar in her honour – Lucille would become one of the blues' most recognised instruments.

Trembling of tone, stabbing of reverb and almost jazz natured in tone, BB King's style would be often immitated but never bettered. Hits such as 'Woke Up This Morning', 'Sweet Little Angel' and 'Ten Long Years' pushed the singer's profile still further, leading to famed appearances at major venues such as Harlem's Apollo theatre.

Remaining loyal to the blues, BB King was invited to support the Rolling Stones on their 1969 American tour, exposing his work to a crossover audience. Lauded by a new generation of guitarists, King was awarded a Grammy award in 1970 for his classic song 'The Thrill Is Gone'.

Touring almost to the end, BB King's concerts towards the end of his life could be hit and miss with a clearly frail guitarist struggling to keep up with the schedule. At times, though, King could still roll back the years – performer and crowd would align, the lights would flicker on Lucille and some magic would happen. Truly, the blues had no more regal a king.

BB King's lawyer issued a statement this morning (May 15th) confirming that the blues legend had passed away peacefully at his Las Vegas home, He was 89.

Tributes are understandably pouring in for a performer who did so much to push music forward. Our thoughts are with his friends, family and loved ones.

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