The King of the Blues: B.B. King

"The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you."- B.B. King



Riley B. King, professionally known as B.B. King was born on September 16, 1925 in Itta Bena, Mississippi. He became a disc jockey in Memphis Tennessee where he was given the name “the Beale Street Blues Boy” which shortened to “B.B.”. King became one of the best-known blues performers, an interpreter of blues styles, and a standing model for rock guitarists. By 1955, King had quit his radio job to tour full-time and bought a bus he then named “Big Red” to provide transportation for his band. In his late 20s he had become one of the top performers on the blues circuit. He created a fusion of jazz, gospel, pop and traditional blues which set a new standard. 

What makes him King of the Blues?

King made his premier recording in 1949 and the following year began a 12 year long association with RPM/Kent/Modern for which he recorded a multitude of rhythm and blues hits. Some of these included “You Know I Love You”, “Woke Up This Morning” and “Three O’Clock Blues” which reached No.1 on the R&B charts. He then toured nightclubs continuously averaging over 300 shows annually for over 30 years! In 1969, King released his biggest hit single “The Thrill is Gone.” By 1979, he became the first bluesman to enter the pop mainstream where he made regular appearances in Las Vegas and on network TV. He even found commercial success with many collaborations including Elton John, Sheryl Crow, Eric Clapton, and Van Morrison just to name a few. In 1987 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. King had been awarded a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album in 2006 having won the award many times over the decades. Later that year, he had been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W Bush. In total, King has won 20 Grammy Awards. 


Although King died in 2015, his legacy lives on forever. He remains the most imitated of blues guitarists; with having an influence on music around the world. It’s because of his style of music that earned him the title “King of Blues”. 

Want to listen to some of his pieces?

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“About.” B.B. King, 8 Mar. 2019, 


“B.B. King.” Academy of Achievement, 22 Sept. 2020, 


“B.B. King.”, A&E Networks Television, 26 Aug. 2020, 


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