Riley B. King passed away Thursday night (5/14). The guitar legend born to sharecroppers in Mississippi in 1925 gained world-wide recognigtion, becoming one of the most revered musicians in American musical history. The 89 year old, known and loved as BB King, had been in hospice care at his Las Vegas home following a rapid decline in his health in recent months. King's edaly love of music inspired him to become a disc jockey on WDIA in Memphis where he acquired the nick name Beale Street Blues Boy, later abreviated to just BB.
A station encounter with T-Bone Walker is said to have convinced King to become an electric guitarist. Under the early guidance of Sam Phillips, King's recording career began in 1949. Relentless touring (he logged 342 performances in 1956 alone and routinely did around 300 concerts a year for decades) propelled BB to wider recognition, better recording contracts and bigger touring opportunities. King opened dates on the 1969 Rolling Stones tour. The following year, he won a Grammy for The Thrill Is Gone. The doors to three halls of fame opened to King, the Blues Hall Of fame (1980), the Rock Hall Of Fame (1987) and the Rhythm & Blues Hall Of Fame (2015). He also earned the National Medal of Arts (1990) and a Presidential Medal of Freedom (2006). The Thrill is gone, but BB King has and will continue to inspire guitarists for generations.