Riley B. King

Riley B. King





Riley B. King

Riley B. King who is famously known as B.B. King was born on September 16th 1925. He was born in Mississippi Delta from a humble background as his parents were sharecropping. At the tender age of just five years, his parents divorced and moved with his mother to downtown Mississippi. Life became hard for them by the time King was turning seven he was doing house chores mostly done by adults. At the age of 9, another tragedy struck, his mother died and he thus had to go live with his father (Academy of Achievement). His mother had been his source of inspiration and with her gone she felt broken. In search for another source of inspiration, King turned to church, Church of God in Church where he got solace. It is while attending the church that he begun being inspired to do music. He had seen the Church’s praise and worship team and he though music would be something he would do.

King had the desire to start creating gospel music and his preacher noted. At age 12, the preacher begun teaching him how to play a guitar that he had acquired from his employer. He would sing in spiritual groups of his church including Elkhorn Singers and the Saint John’s Gospel Singers (Academy of Achievement). He began singing in street corners while playing guitar in a bid to raise money that would help him survive. This humble beginning marked an important phase in life as it became a stepping-stone to which he would begin his successful music career. King has had such a huge impact in the music industry especially in the blues genre. The music that he made gained both acceptance and recognition in major parts of the world and several other singers accredited King’s music as being part of their inspiration including Frank Sinatra and Nat Cole.

His music is of his own class. His trademark was trilling the vibrato that he had developed. He had been able to develop this piece while duplicating the sound of a steel slide. Soon, doors begun opening for King. With the help of Sonny Boy William, he began singing in radio commercials and he was also a disc jockey. He would later on play in small club and by the mid-1960s he was playing in large events. His B.B king originated from a name he had given himself from singing blues “the blues boy from Beale Street” (Dunchin, pg 34). King is the world’s most prominence blue guitarist. He was one blue musician who was able to incorporate other genres of music to his style. He fused pop, waltz, funk, pop and soul to his blues. In one interview that B.B King did, he stated that he was Afraid of doing Blues because he thought people would look down on it especially African Americans as this was not the genre that they were used to.

King’s hard work was unmatched. He had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes but had vowed that the diabetes would not slow his music career down and he did continue with his world tours and shows. Before his death there were several shows that had still been lined. King being successful in his music career his personal life was full of misfortunes as he lost loved ones, fellow close musicians, lovers and aquittance. King got married twice in his life but in both instances the married failed. The failures to thee marriage has at some point been accredited to King’s 250 performances in a year (Richardon, pg. 282-307. These personal tragic loses however did not make him weak but pointed out some of these moments motivated him to writing music. He fathered 15 children during his career and while alive he never disputed they were his children but was supportive enough to even pay for their school.

One of his most notable works that he did was “The Thrill is Gone”. The song was recorded in June 1969 for his album “Completely Well”. The song was originally written by Rick Darnell and Roy Hawkins but was popularized by King’s interpretation. The song has been said to so electrifying and amazingly intense. Although King was known as a well-adjusted person, for this song it was different, he conveyed a sense of jealousy and paranoia. The song was about moving on from a relationship that had ended on a bad note. King had recorded this song so many times but he was not satisfied with the results not until his producer Bill Szymczyk suggested that he could add strings. This addition made the song better and it was this recording that gave king first million-selling record (Herzhaft, pg, 454).

The song became a hit immediately after its release in December 1969. It ranked number three in the R&B chart and in the Billboard Top 100 it was at number 15. “Thrill is Gone” was said to be one of King’s signature songs. His recording earned him a Grammy Award for the category Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in the year 1970 and in 1998 Grammy Hall of Fame Award. The song was also listed by Rolling stone as one of the most memorable songs.

In conclusion, B.B King clearly left a huge impact on blues that is being felt even five years after his death. By the time of his death he had 75 albums. His achievement was so impeccable that he received 18 Grammy Awards, and Presidential Medal of Freedom. King Died in2015 at the age of 89 a man proud of the man he had become. He was just a boy from Beale Street and had dared to dream becoming the greatest R&B musician.

Works Cited

“B.B. King.” Academy of Achievement, 17 Aug. 2019,

Danchin, Sebastian. Blues Boy: The Life and Music of BB King. Univ. Press of Mississippi, 1998

Herzhaft, Gerard. “Thrill Is Gone (The)”. Encyclopedia of the Blues. Fayetteville, Arkansas: University of Arkansas Press. (1992): 454.

Richardson, Jerry. “BB King. Analysis of the Artist’s Evolving Guitar Technique.” Write Me A Few of Your Lines. A Blues Reader (1999): 282-307.