BB King passed away last night at age of 89 at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada. Las Vegas and the world will remember BB King and his massive career through his music, which carried the influence of his birthplace in the Mississippi Delta, the cotton fields and segregation. BB King established Las Vegas as his home in 1975, and it was home base with touring more than 200 days of the year. BB King toured 300 days of the year at his peak.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal “King moved to Las Vegas in 1975, long before it became fashionable for showroom performers, and he became a staple in the casino lounges in Las Vegas, Reno and Lake Tahoe. Though his Las Vegas Hilton venue was technically a lounge, it was more a small showroom where King rotated with acts such as Ike and Tina Turner.”
The story behind Lucille, the name he gave to his guitars was to serve as a reminder to never fight over a woman. In 1949, a fight broke out at a dancehall he was performing at in Twist, Arkansas. Two men knocked over a barrel of lit kerosene and set the hall on fire, forcing everyone to evacuate. BB King ran back in after realizing his Gibson was still inside and gave it the name Lucille, along with every guitar since.
BB King was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, was awarded the National of Arts in 1990 and was awarded 15 Grammy Awards between 1971 and 2009. BB King was born on September 16, 1925 and is recognized as one of the most influential guitar players of all time. As The Guardian.com notes BB King fought for the blues:
“He complained in his autobiography, Blues All Around Me, of the lack of respect blues music got in comparison with rock and jazz. King wrote: “Being a blues singer is like being black twice.
“While the civil rights movement was fighting for the respect of black people, I felt I was fighting for the respect of the blues.”
BB King’s favorite performer was Frank Sinatra who broke down doors to help black performers get into predominantly white performance venues in the 1960s.
The world honors BB King for the 80 albums he produced, for the more than 15,000 shows he performed in his lifetime and the single notes he bent, and in his words: “When I sing, I play in my mind; the minute I stop singing orally, I start to sing by playing Lucille.”