Riley B. King (September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015), known by his stage name B.B. King, was an American blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist. B.B. is an abbrevation for 'Blues Boy'. B.B. King is a cousin of Bukka White, who was a blues musician and often credits White as an early teacher and mentor. King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. King was also inducted into 2014 class of the R&B Music Hall of Fame. 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 was also known for performing tirelessly throughout his musical career, appearing at more than 200 concerts per year on average into his 70s. In 1956, he reportedly appeared at 342 shows. In 1990, King was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President George H.W. Bush. In 2006, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.
Links To Peel
Like Peel, B.B. King worked as a DJ and changed his name, working on a radio station in Memphis while also becoming well-known as a performer under his radio name. However, by the time Peel arrived in the US, King had become a full-time travelling musician and bandleader, and was enjoying some commercial success with black American record-buyers. When Peel returned to Britain, as a fan of blues and its associated genres, he would often play tracks from blues musicians, including B.B. King, and recommended a collection of King's earlier work in his column in issue 53 of International Times:
- Blue Horizon have recently obtained the rights to all the B.B. King material on Kent. However, if you're anxious to equip yourself with most of the best things he's done, then search for "From The Beginning" (Kent KST 533), two LPs with 24 really excellent blues goodies. However, I expect Blue Horizon will release them all as soon as they can.....
The artist received substantial airplay by Peel during the blues boom of the late 60's, but by the time of the 70's and beyond, the DJ seemed to rarely play King's material, according to available playlists. In an interview with John Walters on Peeling Back The Years, who interviewed B.B King for a special Arena programme about Blues music on BBC2 in 1985, Peel claimed that he found Eric Clapton's music, which was influenced by B.B. King, as a whole better to listen to than the blues musician:
- "In the same way that years later, listening to Eric Clapton, people would say, “Well, of course Eric Clapton is very well, quite skilled for a boy, and he’s white and so forth, but at the same time what you really want to hear is BB King.” So I went and listened to BB King and I thought, again, on the whole I rather prefer Eric Clapton"
It is likely, too that Peel found B.B. King's music a bit too smooth for his tastes. Although it was popular with black audiences, it was sometimes closer to post-World War Two R&B and 1940s jazz than the rootsier blues styles of Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Howlin' Wolf or Elmore James, who were featured more often in his playlists and influenced the British blues artists played on his shows. And when B.B. King had become known to the mainstream US public, from the 1970s on, he began to collaborate with artists who were not always Peel favourites - among them U2
- 16 February 1969: 'It's My Own Fault (LP-B.B. King Live At The Regal)' (HMV)
- 09 March 1969: I Done Got Wise (LP - His Best) ABC
- 27 April 1969: Sweet Little Angel (LP - Live and Well) ABC
- 29 June 1969: Sweet Thing (LP: The B.B. King Story Chapter 1) Blue Horizon
- 28 August 1971: How Blue Can You Get?
- 23 May 1972: I Got Some Help I Don't Need (LP - L.A. Midnight) Probe
- 16 October 1979: When My Heart Beats Like A Hammer (single – You Upset Me Baby) Modern Oldies
- 23 September 2003: 'Rock Me Baby (LP- My Kind of Blues/ The R)' (Ember)