CELEBRATING THE KING OF THE BLUES
POSTED SEPT. 16TH, 2017 | BY RAMIRO ALEXANDER-DUCHESNE
Prior to blogging for CSUITEMUSIC.com, I never entertained the idea of journalistic writing. Since I started writing for CSUITEMUSIC.com, however, I've been conscientious about the way that I write. Although I know it's not bad or wrong to write “I” or refer to myself in any of my articles, I've tried to simply give the readers facts. This article breaks that form, but it's for a very good reason.
On this day in history in 1925, the King of The Blues was born. Riley B. King was born on September 16, 1925 in Itta Bena, Mississippi. Riley B. King, like many Black people born in the early 1900s, was born into Sharecropping. When young King became of age, his landlord allowed him to operate the tractor. While driving the tractor one day, young Riley lost control of the machine and ran it into the side of his landlord’s house. Out of fear of facing serious repercussions, Riley ran away fleeing Itta Bena.
While away from home, Riley King traveled to Memphis, Tennessee. King began playing on street corners while he lived with his cousin Bukka White. White was a renowned Blues Musician in his day and was gracious enough to teach his younger cousin, Riley King, everything he knew about the Blues.
Riley King got his first big break in 1948 when he performed on Sonny Boy Williamson’s radio program on KWEM. After performing on Sonny Boy Williamson’s radio show, King started receiving a lot of positive attention that led to him playing at different venues. He even began working for the Black-staffed radio station, WDIA. King had his own radio show titled “King’s Spot.”
As he gained notoriety, King decided that he needed a stage name. He decided to take on the name Blues Boy King, which was later shortened to B. B. There are two things that B. B. King is most famous for; his rendition of the Blues standard “Three O’clock Blues” and his guitar Lucille.
B. B.’s rendition of “Three O’clock Blues” projected his career immensely. The story of how Lucille got her name is probably just as famous as King’s instrument herself. King was performing at a nightclub one evening when a fire broke out. Everyone in the club, including King, ran out of the building in a panic. But then, King realized something.
King realized that he left his guitar in the club. While the building was burning to a crisp, B. B. King ran back in the building to grab his guitar. He nearly died, but he was able to save his guitar. Some time after the club burned down, King found out that the fire was started because two men were fighting over a woman named Lucille. While the men were fighting they knocked over a trashcan that was filled with kerosene that was lit on fire. The club used the trashcan as their source of heat. B. B. decided to name his guitar after the woman who caused the fight to remind himself never to do anything stupid like running into a burning building ever again.
It’s a good thing that King did run into the burning club after his guitar. B. B. King had an illustrious career spanning over sixty years. Over the duration of his career, King received awards and had a slew of R&B Chart and Pop Chart topping hits.
I began playing the guitar when I was nine years old. My two biggest influences and all time favorite musicians are Jimi Hendrix and B. B. King. Because of B. B. King and the sounds that he produced with Lucille, I was determined to become the greatest contemporary Blues guitarist. I always dreamed of being able to at least meet B. B. King. I was fortunate enough to attend three B. B. King concerts in my lifetime. At the last two concerts B. B. King allowed me to hold a conversation with him. While King was up on stage and I stood in the front row of the House of Blues in Anaheim, B. B. and I were able to talk. I was ecstatic. The memory of the conversations that I had with B. B. King is something that will last with me forever.
Toward the middle of 2015, B. B. King fell ill. He was in the hospital and then moved to hospice care. On May 14, 2015, B. B. King passed away peacefully in his sleep. Personally, my heart grew heavy and I privately cried. I mourned the loss of B. B. King in my own way, as I am sure that many people around the world who were affected by his music did. Today is not a day for mourning, however. Today is a day for remembrance and a day to celebrate what would have been B. B. King’s 92nd birthday.
Happy Birthday, B. B. King! We miss you and appreciate you.
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