Born Riley King on the sixteenth of September 1925, he was raised by a foster family in Mississipi
, before moving to Memphis, Tennessee. There he met Sonny Boy Williamson II
), who ran the King Biscuit Boy
radio show, who gave him a ten minute spot as DJ
, where he was nicknamed Blues Boy
, which was abbreviated to the familiar B. B.
that he uses today. When not on the radio, King played with various jazz
King cut his first record, Miss Martha King, with Bullet Records, and immediately afterward moved on to Modern Records, appearing on their RPM label until he signed up with ABC-Paramount in 1961. Three O'Clock Blues was a huge R&B success in 1950, followed by a long string of classics, such as Woke Up This Morning, Sweet Little Angel, Eyesight to the Blind. Inspired by his cousin, Bukka White as well as clean-jazz musician Charlie Christian, contrasting with the raw, earthy sound of Muddy Waters and Elmore James. This allowed King to attract white as well as black audiences.
In Chicago, in what is considered B.B. Kings finest hour, he recorded Live at the Regal in the early 60's. However, his most significant move came when he, along with rock and roll producer Bill Szymczyk, he created Live and Well. One side he cut with his band during a show at New York's Village Gate, the other in a studio in Los Angeles with a small combination of white musicians and top black session artists such as Al Kooper, Hugh McCrackin, Herbie Lovelle, Paul Harris and Jerry Jemmott. The same musicians, minus Kooper, played on Completely Well, a modern swing album, which included several jams and the sensational The Thrill Is Gone, where King used strings against a blues setting. The album provided B.B. King with his second million-seller, a hit in the US.
After that, King found himself playing increasingly in rock venues, adjusting his style using Joe Walsh, Leon Russell and Carole King on Indianola Missisipi Seeds.
King became interested in Prison Welfare, and recorded Live In Cook County Jail, before moving to London, where he recorded B.B. King In London featured Ringo Starr, Peter Green, Alexis Korner and Steve Marriott.
A renowned showman, King is known world-wide for his guitar solos, having inspired both Clapton and Hendrix. By his own confession however, he cannot play rhythm or sing whilst he plays.