This Day in History: 5 Things to Know About the Late B.B. King

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Hall of Famer and legendary blues musician B.B. King developed one of the world’s most identifiable guitar styles with the assistance of his beloved guitar, Lucille. Born on September 16, 1925, the “King of the Blues” won 15 Grammys and performed more than 300 shows annually for over 30 years.

Here are five things to know about the late B.B. King!

  1. B.B. King was forbidden to sing the blues. Like many great talents, B.B. King’s first experience with music was connected to the church. He grew up singing spirituals, but the blues were forbidden by his mother. She considered the genre to be “devil music” which created a conflict for the young musician. King pursued his dreams after the death of his mother with the assistance of relative and fellow musician, Bukka White.
  1. He wasn’t always “B.B. King.” The Hall of Famer was born Riley B. King although he is better known by his stage name. While hosting a radio show in Memphis, Tennessee, King took on the moniker, Beale Street Blues Boy, which was later shortened to Blues Boy. His name was shortened one final time to B.B. King, which proved to be a success.
  1. B.B. King wore several career hats. Despite being known for his musical talents, B.B. King has experience in several career fields. While growing up on a farm, King became a skilled tractor driver. After being discharged from the U.S. Army, King started working as a disc jockey for a local radio station. Even after finding success as a musician, King became a licensed pilot in 1963 and often flew himself to gigs until he was no longer able to do so at the request of his family. 
  1. How “Lucille” got her name. B.B. King’s famed guitar, Lucille, served as a reminder for him to always act with wisdom. The guitar received its name after a woman who was the cause of a fight at one of King’s early performances. A fight erupted and ended with the music venue in flames, however, when King escaped from the building he realized that he did not have his guitar. Luckily, he rushed back into the building and managed to retrieve the guitar. King later learned that a woman named Lucille was the cause of the fight and he renamed his guitar after her to remind him not to do anything as foolish again! 
  1. A museum was made in his honor. In 2008, B.B. King became the subject of his own museum. The B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center opened in his hometown of Indianola, Mississippi with the purpose of honoring his musical milestones and accomplishments. The museum serves as a dedication to King’s music, the music that influenced him, and the rich Delta area history.

In 2006, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President George W. Bush. He continued touring and performing well into his 70s before his health began deteriorating. B.B. King died on May 14, 2015, and thousands of his fans lined Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee to watch the  funeral procession in his honor. 

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