B.B. King

B.B. King was born Riley B. King on the 16th of September, 1925 on a cotton plantation near Itta Beana, Mississippi.

At a young age B.B. King sang in a church gospel choir lead by a minister who played the guitar, this same minister taught B.B. King his first few chords starting him on his journey to becoming a blues guitar great.

After hearing a radio show during a break at the plantation playing the Mississippi delta blues, B.B. decided he wanted to become a radio musician.

It’s as a singer and DJ for the Memphis radio station WDIA that B.B. King earned his famous name. He originally gained the nickname “Beale Street Blues Boy”, later shortened to “Blues Boy”, then “B.B”.

B.B.’s stint at WDIA gave him another career defining experience, it was here that he met blues guitar legend T-Bone Walker.

B.B was quoted saying “once I’d heard him (T-Bone Walker) for the first time, I knew I’d have to have an electric guitar myself. “Had” to have one, short of stealing!” B.B. later become equally famous for his black Gibson ES-355 named “Lucille”.

Techniques And Musical Concepts They Popularised

With his unique, musical bends, shimmering vibrato, vocal like phrasing and mixtures of major and minor pentatonic, B.B. King developed one of the most iconic electric blues guitar styles in history.

B.B.’s guitar playing influences came from a great deal of different sources, he was a huge fan of T-Bone walker adding his own brand to many iconic T-Bone Walker licks, he was also a great fan of horn players and horn based blues which played a large role in the development of his iconic blues phrasing.

Not only was B.B. an accomplished guitar player but he was an equally talented blues singer. B.B. viewed his guitar playing as a form of guitar singing that picked up where his vocal lines left off. He would also emulate the singing styles and phrases of blues and soul singers he admired, further developing his revolutionary use of bending and his vocal like phrasing.

Another style of music that played a large role in shaping B.B Kings playing was the bottle neck slide blues. Having never mastered the bottle neck slide, B.B. realised he could emulate the vibrato of the bottle neck by trilling is hand while fretting notes, this lead B.B to develop his famous vibrato that is imitated by guitar players all over the world.

B.B. King also developed a profound command of mixing major and minor pentatonic and blues scales, creating bitter sweet guitar solo’s that remain inspirations to musicians and guitar players of all styles and genres.

Notable Rock Guitar Players They Influenced

There are few guitar players in the guitar playing world who haven’t been directly or indirectly affected or influenced by B.B. Kings musical legacy.

Notable rock guitar players who have sited B.B. King as a profound influence on their playing have been; Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Slash, Angus Young just to name a few.

While playing in “The Rocking Kings” earlier in his career, Jimi Hendrix would frequently cover B.B. Kings classic “Every day I Have The Blues”.

Jimi would often run into B.B. In his earlier career as they both toured the same circuit, during these brief encounters Jimi was said to pester B.B. for guitar playing tips. While playing with Little Richard in 1965, Jimi was frequently told by Little Richard that he had to stop playing so much like B.B. King.

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