One of the most famous guitarists in the world of Blues, B.B. King, will be appearing at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, April 19 at 8:00 p.m. Known around the world, at age 88, King is an unstoppable musical icon, who is still going strong and touring to this day.
Born on Sept. 16, 1925, in Itta Bene, Mississippi, Riley B. King (a.k.a. B.B. King) is also a songwriter, singer and blues musician, whose blues hits and classics include “3 O’clock Blues,” “Woke Up this Morning,” “Live at the Regal,” and “Bobby “Blue” Bland Together for the First Time.” In the R&B genre, “You Don’t Know Me” rose to #1. “Please Love Me,” “You Upset Me Baby,” “Sweet Sixteen, Part 1” and “Don’t Answer the Door, Part 1,” hit at #2. His crossover hit “The Thrill is Gone,” won King two Grammy Awards and the Hall of Fame Award. These are among the numerous awards he has accumulated during his lengthy career.
Mr. King has collected several guitars over the years. “Yes, I have an extensive guitar collection, but my guitar of choice is a Gibson custom Lucille,” remarked King who named his guitar Lucille after an incident in Twist, Arkansas, when 2 men while engaging in a brawl knocked over a kerosene stove, setting fire to the hall where B.B. (Blues Boy) was playing. Rushing outside to escape the flames, King remembered he left his guitar inside. He rushed back to retrieve it in the knick of time, almost costing him his life. Later, King learned the fight was over a woman named Lucille, prompting King to trademark his Gibson guitars ever since, calling them Lucille.
Lucille has been good to B.B. who developed a unique and very identifiable style of playing the guitar. Influenced by Blind Lemon Jefferson and T-Bone Walker, King developed a precise and sophisticated style of vocal-like fluid string bends and a shimmering left hand vibrato that many electric blues and rock guitarists have emulated. “I listen to all kinds of music and they all have something to offer,” said Mr. King in terms of the development of his music and musical style over the years. His humane bent includes supporting a non-profit organization that provides free musical instruments and instructions to underprivileged public school children. The program is called Little Kids Rock wherein Mr. King sits on the Honorary Board of Directors.
Married twice, B.B. King is reported to have several children and grandchildren. When asked by this writer how Mr. King would like to be remembered, the King of Blues stated humbly, “I would like to be remembered as a person who loved people and loved sharing my music with the world.”
Lehman Center for the Performing Arts is located at 250 Bedford Park Blvd. West in the Bronx. Tickets can be purchased at the Box Office by calling 718-960-8833 or going on line at www.LehmanCenter.org. The Center is accessible via the #4 and D trains or if driving via the Major Deegan Expressway and Saw Mill River Parkway. Low cost parking is available.