Riley B. King, known by the stage name B.B. King, was a blues musician, singer, songwriter, and guitarist.
Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at No. 6 on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time (previously ranked No. 3 in the 2003 edition of the same list), and he was ranked No. 17 in Gibson’s”Top 50 Guitarists of All Time”.
According to Edward M. Komara, King “introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending and shimmering vibrato that would influence virtually every electric blues guitarist that followed.”
King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He is considered one of the most influential blues musicians of all time, earning the nickname “The King of Blues”, and one of the “Three Kings of the Blues Guitar” (along with Albert King and Freddie King).
King is also known for performing tirelessly throughout his musical career appearing at 250-300 concerts per year until his 70’s.
In 1956 it was noted that he appeared at 342 shows.
Over the years, King developed one of the world’s most identifiable guitar styles. He borrowed from Blind Lemon Jefferson,T-Bone Walker and others, integrating his precise and complex vocal-like string bends and his left hand vibrato, both of which have become indispensable components of rock guitarists’ vocabulary. His economy and phrasing has been a model for thousands of players, from Eric Clapton and George Harrison to Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck.
King mixed blues, jazz, swing, mainstream pop and jump into a unique sound. In King’s words, “When I sing, I play in my mind; the minute I stop singing orally, I start to sing by playing Lucille.”
King died at the age of 89 in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 14, 2015 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease along with congestive heart failure and diabetic complications.
INFLUENCE: King is widely regarded as one of the most influential blues guitarists of all time, inspiring countless other electric blues andblues-rock guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Robert Cray, Peter Green, Derek Trucks, John Mayer, Duane Allman, Elmore James, Bob Marley and Stevie Ray Vaughan.