For more than half a century, Riley B. King - better known as B.B. King - has defined the blues for a worldwide audience. Since he started recording in the 1940s, the guitarist and singer has released over 50 albums, many of them classics, including 1965's definitive live blues album Live at The Regal and 1976's collaboration with Bobby "Blue" Bland, Together for the First Time. His instantly recognizable guitar playing, filled with delicate filigrees of single-string runs punctuated by loud chords, subtle vibratos, and bent notes, has been the stylistic model for thousands of guitar players, including giants like Eric Clapton, George Harrison, and Jeff Beck. He has collaborated with a cast of notable artists too numerous to list, has won more than a dozen Grammy Awards, and has been inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In many respects, he has been the face, the sound, and the very heart and soul of the blues for over half a century.
Over the years, King has enjoyed two No. 1 R&B hits - 1951's "Three O'Clock Blues" and 1952's "You Don't Know Me" - and four No. 2 R&B hits, including 1953's "Please Love Me," 1954's "You Upset Me Baby," 1960's "Don't Answer the Door, Part I," and 1966's "Don't Answer the Door, Part I." His 1970 crossover hit "The Thrill is Gone" also fared well on the pop charts, cresting at No. 15. However, King and his music are best experienced live, and his repertoire contains an extensive list of fan-favorite tunes that are synonymous with the blues itself, including "How Blue Can You Get," "Everyday I Have the Blues," "Why I Sing the Blues," and "Caldonia." The new millenium has found him continuing to win acclaim from critics and fans alike for his music - among his most recent achievements is a 2009 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album for his 2008 release, One Kind Favor.
King's reign as King of the Blues has been long and prosperous, and he continues to wear his crown well. At age 86, he is still light on his feet, singing and playing the blues with relentless passion. Time has no apparent effect on King, other than to make him more popular, more cherished, and more relevant than ever. Don't look for him in some kind of semi-retirement; look for him out on the road, playing for people, popping up in a myriad of T.V. commercials, or laying down tracks for his next album. B.B. King is as alive as the music he plays, and a grateful world can't get enough of him. Don't miss his special performance at the club that bears his name.
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