B. B. KING: Biography and his Guitar LUCILLE
Riley Ben King (B. B. King) was born in 1925 in a humble cabin, on a cotton plantation, in a small town in the state of Mississippi (Itta Bena).
He had a complicated childhood due to the separation of his parents at the age of four, and the death of his mother at the age of nine, being raised mainly by his grandmother, who, like his parents, also worked in cotton plantations in conditions close to slavery.
At the age of 12, he had his first contact with music participating in the Church's Gospel Choir, where he practiced singing and where he took his first steps as a guitarist.
Although he was very young, little King, already had extensive experience in the work of the cotton plantation, working since he was 8 years old. Having to combine long days on the plantation with his passion for music.
A few years later King was already playing with various Gospel groups and even solo, earning as much money in one night playing in the streets, as in a week in the cotton fields. So you can imagine the misery of salary he earned as a collector and tractor driver on the plantation.
One afternoon, when he was 21 years old, and returning home after a day in the field, the tractor breaks down, and for fear of harsh reprisals from the boss, King takes everything he has (his guitar and $ 2.50 ) and goes to his cousin's house in Memphis, this being the one that totally introduced him to the Blues.
Although from a very young age King was already attracted to this genre, despite the fact that his mother crossed out this music, as the music of the devil.
Legend of Robert Johnson
I will open a parenthesis to talk about the blues, the devil, and Robert Johnson. Robert Johnson was one of the best blues guitarists in history, but in the beginning, he was a mediocre musician, until one day he began to play blues with perfect execution, giving the feeling that two guitars were playing at the same time.
Legend has it that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil one midnight at the crossroads of present-day Highway 61 and Highway 49 in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in exchange for playing the best blues that had ever been heard. Johnson gave his guitar to him at this junction, to the devil, and then the devil gave it back to him, he'll apprehend.
Robert played all over the southern United States. But he never stayed in the same place for long. It seemed like he was running from something. Due to his constant wandering, his Gibson guitar was almost destroyed, but despite this, Robert never left it, and his sound continued to captivate everyone who heard it.
Until one night, the devil came to collect his debt.
In the middle of a concert, Robert stopped singing, put his guitar aside, and went out into the street. For the next three days, he was delirious until he died from the strychnine contained in a bottle of whiskey, which he was offered to drink.
Robert strangely counted the day of his death, with the same years of age that other great music legends such as Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, and Kurt Cobain had when they died. The last to join this tragic club was Amy Winehouse. They were all 27 when they died, and had a musical relationship with the blues.
Returning to the topic of our friend King, once he settled in Memphis, his musical career began to be projected, thanks to the offer to participate 10 minutes without pay, as a disc jockey in a radio program.
B. B. King used to play in the intermission of the radio program, with the jazz or blues musicians who were going to perform, acquiring the nickname of "Blues Boy", a name that ended up being shortened to B.B., hence his stage name, B. B. King.
Thanks to his radio contacts, at the end of 1949 he recorded his first album (Miss Martha King). That same year, King used to play some weekends at a place called Twist in Arkansas. One night a fire broke out on the premises, forcing him to leave the premises in a hurry. After leaving the premises, King realized that he had left his guitar, and returned to rescue it, managing to leave the premises, just before collapsing.
The fire was started as a result of a dispute over a lady. That lady was called Lucille and since then B. B. King calls all his guitars Lucille, to remind himself of the stupidity that could have cost him his life.
B. B. King (Guitar)
B. B. King used several models of guitars, but since its launch in 1958, it has not stopped using modified models, similar to the famous Gibson ES-335.
Initially, he used to feed towels through the F-openings of his 335, to reduce uncontrolled coupling. But later I was using custom Gibson Guitars, without the F-holes, to control the problem.
In addition to incorporating the Varitone control to select different condensers with different tonalities, and with a Gibson TP-6 tailpiece so that according to him, it prevents the cuffs of the shirts from catching.
The amps I used to use were Gibson or the Fender Twin Reverb.
The Three Kings of Blues
B. B. King is considered by many the King of Blues, although he also belonged to the small club of the Three Kings of Blues. Curiously, the three were surnamed King, although they did not have any kind of kinship between them, although if all the Kings were like B. B. King who had 15 children, no wonder there are many Kings.
This select club of three kings has formed apart from B. B. King, Albert King, and Freddie King.
Albert King was born a year before BB, he was 1.9 meters tall, weighed 120 kilos, and played very much in the style of BB King, but with a Flying V. For these reasons he earned the name of "The Velvet Bulldozer" ( the velvet digger). As he was left-handed, he played with the guitar on the reverse side, just like Jimi Hendrix, but with the difference that Jimi moved the strings, but Albert did not. They were as is, leaving the thin rope above and the thick below. This one really should be possessed to be able to play that way… incredible.
Freddie King was born a decade after the first two kings, but his career began only four years after the previous two, as Freddie began playing guitar at a very young age, at 8 years old. He also used an ES-335 like B. B. King, but with a marked and hard-hitting overdrive, practically getting into rocky areas. This earned the nickname "The Texas Cannonball" (The Texas cannonball). Honestly, a nickname very well suited to the character, he was black, round, and his music was pure shrapnel.
B. B. King died in 2015 while he was sleeping at the age of 89 at his home in Las Vegas, being the last king to disappear from the stage, although B. B. was at the foot of the canyon practically until the end.
B. B. King played the guitar, plucking practically note for note. Although he knew some chords, he did not play rhythms, he simply said that he was not good at it.
It was also impossible for him to play and sing at the same time.
What he was very good at was playing Blues with a Filin that had not been heard before, recognizing his style, at the first measure. With his characteristic left-hand vibrato and great taste in the use of bendings, he pioneered both techniques, making Lucille sing music of the devil, like the real angels.