The Man Behind the Blues: Riley B. King

Who Is He?

Riley B. King also known as B.B. King was born on September 16, 1925. He was born in Berclair, Mississippi to sharecroppers Albert and Nora Ella King. He was born on the Berclair cotton plantation. When King was four, his mother left his father for another man. He was left to be raised by his grandmother in Mississippi. Whilst living with his grandmother, he joined the gospel choir in his town and he also learned to play guitar. In 1948, King performed for the first time on a radio station and he got more publicity through this. He then went on to work at WDIA as a disc player where he was named “Blues Boy.” King’s favorite singer was Frank Sinatra and he credits greatly for opening doors to Black entertainers. During this time and even before, Black entertainers weren’t given their chance to showcase their talents in spaces that weren’t necessarily made for them. 


Popular Songs:

  • Grammy Award for Best Ethnic and Traditional Folk (1982)
  • Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1987)
  • Kennedy Center Honors (1995)
  • Grammy Hall of Fame (2004, 2006, 2014)
  • Three O’Clock Blues
  • You Upset Me Baby
  • Every Day I Have the Blues
  • Sweet Sixteen
  • Don’t Answer the Door
  • Why I Sing the Blues
  • The Thrill Is Gone
  • Chains and Things 
  • To Know You Is to Love You


B.B. King was an inspiration to all not only in the Blues world but throughout other genres. I grew up on B.B. King. Most people would think being from New York, I wouldn’t know much about him. But he truly is a Blues legend. Through his music, he tried to bridge the gap between White and Black entertainers. During the time he came up, Black people were not in a position to be seen. They faced severe discrimination and to be an artist during this time would take a lot. But, he did it. He worked his hardest to defy odds. He made different beats that were unique to the time and genres that came before. Although he passed away in 2015, he has left so much behind. He created an era that can’t go unrecognized. 

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