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B.B. King

Riley B. King, better known by his stage name “B.B. King” is a famous African American blues musician. He was born on September 16, 1925 on a cotton plantation in Mississippi, to Albert King and Nora Ella Farr. His father left the family when King was very young, and his mother remarried shortly after, so he was raised by his maternal grandmother. He joined the church choir at a young age, and bought his first guitar at the age of 12. He was influenced musically by the famous blues musician Bukka White, who was his mother’s cousin. In 1946, he followed White to Tennessee, and began playing small time gigs where he eventually made a name for himself in musical circles. He earned a spot on the Memphis radio station WDIA, which became so popular that it became a full-fledged show called “The Sepia Swing Club”.

King began recording in 1949, with a Los Angeles based label called RPM Records. He assembled his own band and began touring major cities such as Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, St. Louis and the southern U.S. states. During one of his performances, a fight broke out which caused a kerosene filled barrel to catch fire and be knocked down. Soon, the entire theatre caught fire and the building was evacuated. During this time, King realized that he had left his guitar inside the burning building, and went back to retrieve it, narrowly escaping death. The fight was about a woman named Lucille, and King named his guitar Lucille to remind him of the experience and vowed never to do anything so dangerous again.

In 1952, King had a number one hit on the chart called “3 O’ Clock Blues” which made him a prominent musician. This was followed by many others, including “You Know I Love You” “Woke Up This Morning”, “When My Heart Beats like a Hammer”, “Whole Lotta Love” “You Upset Me Baby”, “Every Day I Have the Blues”, “Ten Long Years”, “Sweet Little Angel”, “On My Word of Honor” and “Please Accept My Love.” In 1956 alone, he had 342 concerts, and formed his own record label called “Blues Boys Kingdom”.

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