Happy birthday to the lovable soul-blues icon B.B. King! A huge influence on so many electric blues guitarists & singers, soul artists as well as the rock generation, his style was immediately identifiable and his hit songs rank among the most loved in twentieth century music.
From a sharecropping family in Indianola MS, he sang gospel in church and at 12 was given a guitar by his cousin Bukka White. He started his career locally in '43 and three years later moved to Memphis with White. He worked as a radio DJ and playing in clubs and recorded his early sides for a pre-Sun Records Sam Phillips.
He started some heavy touring and had a huge record in '52 with "3 O'Clock Blues" and his success continued to grow. In '56 he played 342 shows! By the time the '60s came he was a major attraction and already a blues icon. He toured with the Rolling Stones in '69 and had a huge, everlasting hit with "The Thrill Is Gone" in '70. That same year he played to inmates of Cook County Jail, with an album release following.
In the '70s his music included funk grooves. He continued to be a top concert attraction for the rest of his life, and in his lengthy career played with Eric Clapton, U2, Gary Moore, John Lee Hooker, George Duke, Etta James, Ray Charles, George Jones, Gloria Estefan, The Crusaders as well as his fellow Beale Streeters Johnny Ace & Bobby "Blue" Bland.
His stylistic range went from blues to soul to funk to country to jazz to ballads to rock to arrangements with strings. His other interests included flying--he was a pilot who used to fly to his own gigs--and his numerous business ventures. In '91 opened his BB King Blues Club in Memphis, with additional locations popping up through the years. He also was his own career manager and wrote an autobiography before diabetes took him away in 2015. He and his guitar Lucille were of the highest of guitar icons and influenced just about every axeman that came after.