The Thrill Is Gone
Multiple Grammy Award winning blues guitarist, singer and songwriter B.B. King has been in the music industry since 1947. He took home his first Grammy Award in 1971 for the hit “The Thrill is Gone,” which was taken from his album “Completely Well” (1969). First made famous by Roy Hawkins in 1951, the song won King a Hall of Fame Grammy Award seventeen years later. He has also collected Grammy Awards in the category of Best Traditional Blues Album for “Blues 'N' Jazz” (1984), “My Guitar Sings the Blues” (1986), “Live at San Quentin” (1991), “Live at the Apollo” (1992), “Blues Summit” (1994), “Blues on the Bayou” (2000), “Riding with the King” (2001), “A Christmas Celebration of Hope” (2003), “B.B. King & Friends: 80” (2006) and “One Kind Favor” (2009) as well as a Grammy for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording for “There Must Be a Better World Somewhere” (1982). He also won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance (with other artists) for “SRV Shuffle” (1997). King was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987. In addition to “The Thrill is Gone,” King scored numerous R&B/pop hits throughout the late 1940s to early 2000s, including “Three O’Clock Blues,” “Please Love Me,” “You Upset Me Baby,” “Sweet Sixteen, Pt. I,” “Peace of Mind,” “Don't Answer the Door, Pt. I,” “Paying the Cost to Be the Boss,” “Chains and Thing,” “I Like to Live the Love” and “Into the Night.” He also had two rock hit singles with “When Love Comes to Town” (with U2) and “Riding with the King” (with Eric Clapton).
King was once ranked No. 3 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of “100 Greatest Guitarists of all Time.” In 2009, he was named one of Time Magazine's “10 Best Electric Guitarists of all Time.” King has been inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Beale Street Blues Boy
Childhood and Family:
Riley Ben King, professionally known as B.B. King, was born on September 16, 1925, on a plantation in Itta Bena, Mississippi, to parents Alfred King and Nora Ella King. When he was young, he sang in a local gospel group and once played on street corners for coins. At age 12, he purchased his first guitar for $15.00. In 1943, King left his hometown and landed a job as a truck driver. Three years later, he arrived in Memphis, Tennessee, to try his luck in music and stayed with his cousin Bukka White, a blues performer. After some bad luck, King returned to Mississippi. He made his way back to Memphis two years later and was hired as a singer and disc jockey at R&B radio station WDIA. It was during this period that he got the nickname “Beale Street Blues Boy,” which was later reduced to “B.B.” Before long, he met one of his inspirations, T-Bone Walker, a pioneer of the electric guitar.
On November 11, 1944, King married Martha Lee Denton, but they divorced in 1952. He then married Sue Carol Hall on June 4, 1958. The marriage ended in divorce in 1966. The primary cause of his divorces was King's hectic schedule. During that time, he performed about 250 days a year. King claims to have had 15 children out of marriage, all with different women.
Since 1990, King has lived with Type II diabetes and has actively spoken out against the disease. He is a vegetarian and a fan of Frank Sinatra. It was Sinatra who helped King enter main clubs in Las Vegas during the 1960s.
King has Blues clubs in Memphis, Los Angeles, New York City and Connecticut.
Riding with the King
After a career in radio, B.B. King began his recording career in 1949 with the release of his first single “Miss Martha King,” under Bullet Records. The single, however, earned negative feedback from critics. He then signed with RPM Records and worked with Sam Phillips. In the early 1950s, King released many singles, including “Mistreated Woman,” “The Other Night Blues,” “I Am,” “My Baby's Gone” (all 1950), “B. B. Blues,” “She's a Mean Woman” (both 1951), “Fine-Looking Woman,” “Someday, Somewhere” and “You Didn't Want Me” (all 1952). He, however, did not score his first No.1 hit until he released “Three O'Clock Blues” (1951). It was followed by the hit “Story from My Heart and Soul” in 1952, which became his next Top 10 hit single on the R&B chart. For the next three years, King produced the R&B hits “Please Love Me” (1953, #1), “When My Heart Beats Like a Hammer” (1954, #8), “You Upset Me Baby” (1954, #1), “Everyday I Have the Blues” (1955, #8) and “Ten Long Years” (1955, #9).
In 1956, King released the album “Singin' the Blues” under the Bihari brothers' Crown label. In addition to “Everyday I Have the Blues” and “Ten Long Years,” the album released the charted singles “Crying Won't Help You” (#15), Lucille Bogan's “Sweet Little Angel” (#6) and “Bad Luck” (#3). It was also in 1956 that King's concert career reached its peak with nearly 350 performances a year. He and his supporting band, The B.B. King Review, which was led by Millard Lee, toured the U.S. extensively with performances in cities like Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Chicago, St. Louis, and Detroit. King also branched out to producing with the establishment of his record label, Blues Boys Kingdom, in Memphis. The company, however, proved unsuccessful and soon folded. Though short lived, Blues Boys Kingdom managed to produce artists such as Millard Lee and Levi Seabury.
King went on to make his mark on the R&B territory throughout the reminder of the 1950s with such hits as “On My Word of Honor” (1956, #3), “I Want to Get Married” (1957, #14), “Troubles, Troubles, Troubles” (1957, #13), “Please Accept My Love” (1958, #9) and “You've Been an Angel” (1959, #16). King also had a minor pop hit with the song “Be Careful with a Fool” (1957), which charted at No. 95. His second album, “The Blues,” followed in 1958.
Opening the 1960s, King released the hit single “Sweet Sixteen, Pt. I” in 1960. The song peaked at No. 2 on the R&B chart. The following year, he released the album “My Kind of Blues” with EMI-Capitol. He also released the hit singles “Somebody’s Baby” and “Peace of Mind.” In 1962, King signed to ABC-Paramount Records and released “I'm Gonna Sit Till You Give In.” In 1964, he charted on the Billboard Hot 100 with the songs “How Blue Can You Get” (#97), “Help the Poor” (#98), “Never Trust a Woman” (#90) and “Rock Me Baby,” which peaked at No. 38. The song became King's first single to make the pop Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100. The same year, King also recorded Percy Mayfield's ballad “Please Send Me Someone to Love.”
Following the albums “Mr. Blues” (1962) and “Blues in My Heart” (1963), King released the live album “Live at the Regal” in 1965 on ABC Records. Recorded at the Regal Theater in Chicago in 1964, the album received critical acclaim and has since been widely regarded as one of the greatest blues albums ever recorded. “Rolling Stone” ranked the album at No. 141 on its list of “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” King followed it up with “Confessin' the Blues” in 1966. The same year, King's single “Don't Answer the Door, Pt. I,” went to No. 2 on the R&B chart and No. 72 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was followed by the No. 45 hit single “I Say in the Mood” (also 1966).
King launched two albums in 1967 titled “Blues Is King” and “The Jungle” and three albums in 1968 called “Blues on Top of Blues,” “Lucille” and “The King's Jam.” King also released several hit singles in 1968, including “Paying the Cost to Be the Boss,” “I'm Gonna Do What They Do to Me,” “The B. B. Jones,” “You Put It on Me” and “The Woman I Love.”
In 1969, King released the “Live & Well” album, which was comprised of five tracks recorded at the Village Gate in New York City and five additional studio tracks. His second album that year was “Completely Well,” which is noteworthy for the inclusion of King's signature song “The Thrill Is Gone.” Written by Rick Darnell and Roy Hawkins, the single rose to No. 3 on the Billboard Black Singles chart and No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100, marking King's most successful pop hit to date. It won a Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in 1971 and an additional Grammy in 1998 for the Hall of Fame Award. Still in 1969, King also embarked on a tour as an opening act for The Rolling Stones' 1969 American Tour.
In 1970, King released “Indianola Mississippi Seeds,” in which he collaborated with such popular musicians as Carole King, Russ Kunkel, Leon Russell, Joe Walsh, Paul Harris, Hugh McCracken and Sherlie Matthews, among others. Released under MCA records with Bill Szymczyk serving as the producer, the album was critically applauded and became one of the most respected blues crossover albums of all time. It peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Black Albums, No. 7 on the Billboard Jazz Albums and No. 26 on the Billboard Pop Albums. The album produced the hit singles “Chains And Things,” “Hummingbird” and “Ask Me No Questions.”
After the live album “Live in Cook County Jail” (1971), recorded in Cook County Jail in Chicago, Illinois, King released his next studio album, “B. B. King in London,” which was recorded in London in 1971. The album featured U.S. session musicians and various British R&B musicians. The single “Ghetto Woman” rose to No. 18 on the Billboard Black Singles chart and No. 40 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart. In 1972, King released the studio album “Guess Who” for producer Joe Zagarino and the electric blues album “L.A. Midnight.” Several singles released during the period of 1971 to 1972 included “The Evil Child,” “Sweet Sixteen,” “I Got Some Help I Don't Need” and “Ain't Nobody Home.”
In 1973, King released the album “To Know You Is to Love You,” which spawned a hit single of the same name. The title track peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Black Singles and No. 38 on the Billboard Pop Singles. King then collaborated with Texas blues singer Bobby Bland for “Together for the First Time...Live” (1974), which was produced by Steve Barri. They would work again on “Bobby Bland and B.B. King Together Again...Live” (1976), a live album recorded in 1976 at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles, California. “Together for the First Time...Live” was certified gold. In between the two albums, King recorded “Friends” (1974) and “Lucille Talk Back” (1975). He went on to release “King Size” in 1977, “Midnight Believer” in 1978 and “Take It Home” in 1979. Meanwhile, from 1974 to 1979, King produced the hit singles “I Like to Live the Love” (#6 R&B, #28 Pop), “Who Are You” (#27 R&B, #78 Pop), “Philadelphia” (#19 R&B, #64 Pop), “Friends” (#34 R&B), “Let the Good Times Roll” (#20 R&B), “Never Make a Move Too Soon” (#19 R&B), “I Just Can't Leave Your Love Alone” (#90 R&B) and “Better Not Look Down” (#30 R&B).
King released the live album “Now Appearing at Ole Miss” in 1980, but unlike its predecessors, the album received mixed reviews from critics. However, King quickly rebounded with “There Must Be a Better World Somewhere” (1981), from which he netted a Grammy for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording. The title track rose to No. 91 on the R&B Chart and became King's last charted single on the chart for the next four years.
Throughout the remainder of the decade, King only recorded the albums “Love Me Tender” (1982), “Why I Sing the Blues” (1983) and “Six Silver Strings” (1985). He was put back on the Billboard Black Singles Chart in 1985 with the song “Into the Night,” which rose to No. 15. The same year, he also scored a minor R&B hit with “Big Boss Man,” which charted at No. 62. He furthered gained attention with the 1988 hit single “When Love Comes to Town,” a duet sung with U2 for the group's 1998 album “Rattle and Hum.” The song went to No. 68 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 2 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and No. 6 on the U.K. Singles chart. King won Grammys for Best Traditional Blues Album for “Blues 'N' Jazz” (1984) and “My Guitar Sings the Blues” (1986) and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987.
Next up, King released “B. B. King and Sons Live” (1990), “Live at San Quentin,” “Live at the Apollo,” “There is Always One More Time” (all 1991) and the compilation album “King of the Blues” (1992). The singer won Grammys for Best Traditional Blues Album for “Live at San Quentin” and “Live at the Apollo.” King also scored two singles in 1992 with the songs “The Blues Come Over Me” and “Since I Met You Baby,” which respectively peaked at No. 63 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and No. 59 on the U.K. Singles chart. King picked up his next Grammy Award in 1994 for “Blues Summit” (1993) in the category of Best Traditional Blues Album.
In 1996, King launched “Lucille & Friends,” in which he was accompanied by Robert Cray, Stevie Wonder, Diane Schuur, Albert Collins, and The Crusaders. The gold album “Deuces Wild” followed on November 4, 1997. He scored a platinum release later that same year with “Best of King.” Also in 1997, King won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance (with other artists) for “SRV Shuffle.” “Blues on the Bayou” was released on October 20, 1998, and was handed a 2000 Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album. It was followed by the live album “Live in Japan,” which was recorded in Tokyo in 1971 and the tribute album “Let the Good Times Roll.”
Entering the new millennium, King enjoyed success with the blues album “Riding with the King,” a collaboration with Eric Clapton. The album was certified double platinum in the U.S. and won a 2001 Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album. The title track peaked at No. 26 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, becoming King's second single on the rock chart. The same year, King also released the album “Makin' Love Is Good for You.” Three years later, he resurfaced with “Reflections” (2003). He won a 2003 Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album for “A Christmas Celebration of Hope.”
In 2005, King launched “The Ultimate Collection” and the blues album “B. B. King & Friends: 80,” which won a 2006 Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album. He then released “The Best of the Early Years” and “Forever Gold: B. B. King Live” (both 2007), “Live” and “One Kind Favor” (both 2008) and “Live At The BBC” (2009). “One Kind Favor” brought King a 2009 Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album.
Also an occasional actor, King made his acting debut in the 1973 film “Blues Under the Skin.” He went on to appear in such films as Bill Ferris' “Give My Poor Heart Ease” (1977), “Spies Like Us” (1985), “The Fearless Four” (1997), “Blues Brothers 2000” (1998) and “Shake, Rattle and Roll: An American Love Story” (1999, TV) as well as in episodes of the TV series “The Cosby Show” (1990), “Married with Children” (1990), “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (1995) and “Cow and Chicken” (1999).
Grammy: Best Traditional Blues Album, “One Kind Favor,” 2009
Grammy: Best Traditional Blues Album, “B.B. King & Friends: 80,” 2006
Grammy: Best Traditional Blues Album, “A Christmas Celebration of Hope,” 2003
Grammy: Best Traditional Blues Album, “Riding with the King,” 2001
Grammy: Best Traditional Blues Album, “Blues on the Bayou,” 2000
Grammy: Hall of Fame Award, “The Thrill is Gone,” 1998
Grammy: Best Rock Instrumental Performance (with other artists), “SRV Shuffle,” 1997
Grammy: Best Traditional Blues Album, “Blues Summit,” 1994
Grammy: Best Traditional Blues Album, “Live at the Apollo,” 1992
Grammy: Best Traditional Blues Album, “Live at San Quentin,” 1991
Grammy: Lifetime Achievement Award, 1987
Grammy: Best Traditional Blues Album, “My Guitar Sings the Blues,” 1986
Grammy: Best Traditional Blues Album, “Blues 'N' Jazz,” 1984
Grammy: Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording, “There Must Be a Better World Somewhere,” 1982
Grammy: Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, “The Thrill is Gone,” 1971