The thrill is gone: B.B. King dies at 89

b king dies at 89 news bb guitar
Dan Steinberg/AP
Blues legend B.B. King has died at his home in Las Vegas, his lawyer says. Attorney Brent Bryson told The Associated Press that he died peacefully in his sleep at 9:40 p.m. on Thursday. King sold millions of records worldwide and was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame, as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine ranked B.B. King at No. 6 on its 2011 list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. He was also ranked No. 17 in Gibson’s “Top 50 Guitarists of All Time.” King was known as one of the most influential blues musicians of all time, for which he gained the nickname “King of the Blues.”

Born Riley B. King in Mississippi, he started playing the guitar at age 12. Like most musicians into blues, he got his start singing gospel, but when he was a teenager he was drawn to Lonnie Johnson. He also became involved in music through his cousin Bukka White, a blues singer who recorded for Victor and Vocalion.

Starting his music career in 1949, King somehow convinced the owner of WDIA, the only radio outlet exclusively for black listeners, to give him a 10-minute daily show. When King started DJing, he was known as “the Beale Street Blues Boy.” This soon became “Bee Bee” King and, finally, B.B. King.

B.B. King recorded more than 50 albums and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. When King was with Modern’s labels, he released three No. 1 R&B sides including You Know I Love You, You Upset Me Baby, and Please Love Me.

As far as King’s personal life, he had been married twice, to Martha Lee Denton (1946-1952), and to Sue Carol Hall (1958 to 1966). Due to the heavy burden touring demands had on the marriage, neither worked out. It’s been reported that King fathered and adopted 15 children.

Over the last twenty years, King has lived with Type II diabetes and was hospitalized with complications stemming from it. He continued playing concerts well into his 80s, however, and often performed in more than 100 each year.

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