For more than half a century, Riley B. King (1925 – 2015) – better known as B.B. King – was an American blues singer-songwriter, guitarist, and record producer. He introduced a sophisticated style of guitar soloing that influenced many later electric guitar blues players. AllMusic recognised King as:
The single most important electric guitarist of the last half of 20th century.
He performed tirelessly throughout his musical career, appearing on average at more than 200 concerts per annum well into his 70s. Since he started recording in the 1940s, he has released over fifty albums, many of them classics.
Soon after his number one hit, Three O’Clock Blues, B.B. began touring nationally. In 1956, B.B. and his band played an astonishing 342 one-night stands at a variety of venues from small-town cafes to, juke joints to symphony concert halls, nationally and internationally.
Over the years, B.B. developed one of the world’s most identifiable guitar styles. He borrowed from many, integrating his precise and complex vocal-like string bends and his left hand vibrato, both of which have become indispensable components of the rock guitarist’s vocabulary. His economy, his every-note-counts phrasing, has been a model for thousands of guitar players. He really could make the guitar sing.
In 1968, B.B. played at the Newport Folk Festival and at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West on bills with the hottest contemporary rock artists of the day who idolised B.B. and helped to introduce him to a young white audience. In 1969, B.B. was chosen by the Rolling Stones to open 18 American concerts for them
B.B. was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1984 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He received NARAS’ Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 1987, and has received honorary doctorates from Tougaloo(MS) College in 1973; Yale University in 1977; Berklee College of Music in 1982; Rhodes College of Memphis in 1990; Mississippi Valley State University in 2002 and Brown University in 2007. In 1992, he received the National Award of Distinction from the University of Mississippi.