Thursday Jan 21, 2021’s Smile of the Day: B. B. King

On this Day:

in 1987, B.B. King is inducted into the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”

Riley B. King (September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015), known professionally as B.B. King, was an American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and record producer. King introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending, shimmering vibrato and staccato picking that influenced many later blues electric guitar players. AllMusic recognized King as “the single most important electric guitarist of the last half of the 20th century”.

King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and is one of the most influential blues musicians of all time, earning the nickname “The King of the Blues”, and is considered one of the “Three Kings of the Blues Guitar” (along with Albert King and Freddie King, none of whom are blood related). King performed tirelessly throughout his musical career, appearing on average at more than 200 concerts per year into his 70s. In 1956 alone, he appeared at 342 shows.

King was born on a cotton plantation in Itta Bena, Mississippi, and later worked at a cotton gin in Indianola, Mississippi. He was attracted to music and the guitar in church, and began his career in juke joints and local radio. He later lived in Memphis, Tennessee, and Chicago, and as his fame grew, toured the world extensively. King died at the age of 89 in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 14, 2015.

King won 15 Grammys and was nominated for 6 more.  He received many honors including an Honorary Doctor of Music from Yale University, and was  inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.  He received the National Medal of the Arts, and a National Heritage Fellowship from the NEA.  The Library of Congress awarded him the Living Legend Medal for his lifetime of contributions to America’s diverse cultural heritage, and the Royal Swedish Academy of Music awarded him the Polar Music Prize for his “significant contributions to the blues”.  He received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. 

Rolling Stone ranked King at No. 6 on its 2011 list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

How do you determine how sad is a musician? With a blues scale.

Second, a Song:

“The Thrill Is Gone” is a slow minor-key blues song written by West Coast blues musician Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell in 1951. Hawkins’ recording of the song reached number six in the Billboard R&B chart in 1951. In 1970, “The Thrill Is Gone” became a major hit for B.B. King. His rendition helped make the song a blues standard.

B.B. King recorded his version of “The Thrill Is Gone” in June 1969 for his album Completely Well, released the same year. King’s version is a slow 12-bar blues notated in the key of B minor in 4/4 time. The song’s polished production and use of strings marked a departure from both the original song and King’s previous material.

When released as a single in December 1969, the song became one of the biggest hits of King’s career, appearing in the R&B chart at number three and the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart at number 15 and became one of his signature songs.

B.B. King’s recording earned him a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in 1970 and a Grammy Hall of Fame award in 1998. King’s version of the song was also placed at number 183 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. Memorable live versions of the song were included on King’s albums Live in Cook County Jail (1971), Bobby Bland and B.B. King Together Again…Live (1976), and Live at San Quentin (1991) (per Wikipedia).

Here is a legendary version from the Live at the United Kingdom tour in 1993 when BB King performed with the Irish Blues/rock guitarist Gary Moore on “The Thrill is Gone”. This version will just blow you away with the guitarist dual between Gary and BB in a call and response format. I hope you enjoy every second!


Thought for the Day:

“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.” – B. B. King

Have a great day!

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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