Here’s a look at the life of blues legend B.B. King.
Birth date: September 16, 1925
Death date: May 14, 2015
Birth place: Mississippi Delta cotton plantation between Indianola and what is now Itta Bena, Mississippi
Birth name: Riley B. King
Father: Albert Lee King, a sharecropper
Mother: Nora Ella (Pully) King
Marriages: Sue Carol Hall (1958-1966, divorced), Martha Lee Denton (1942-1950, divorced)
Military: US Army, 1943
King sang with church choirs as a child. He learned basic guitar chords from his uncle, a preacher, and only performed religious music at home.
King sang and played the blues on the corner of Church and Second in Indianola, and said he could earn more in one night singing on the corner than he could in one week working in the cotton field.
Enlisted in the Army during World War II but was released because he drove a tractor, an essential home front occupation.
His nickname, “B.B.” is short for Blues Boy, part of the name he used as a Memphis disc jockey, the Beale Street Blues Boy.
The first “Lucille” got her name after a fire broke out at a dance in Arkansas and King ran out forgetting his guitar and then risked his life to go back and get it. When he later found out that two men fighting over a woman named Lucille had knocked over a kerosene heater that had started the fire, he named the guitar Lucille, “to remind myself never to do anything that foolish.”
King has used various models of Gibson guitars over the years and named them each Lucille. In the early 1980s, Gibson officially dropped the model number, ES-355, on the guitar King used and it became a custom-made signature model named Lucille, manufactured exclusively for the King of the Blues.
King’s daughter, Patty, was among the inmates at his concert at a Gainesville, Florida, correctional facility.
1937 – Receives his first guitar.
1947-1950 – Disc jockey for WDIA in Memphis.
1949 – Records four songs, including his debut single, “Miss Martha King.”
December 1951 – His first hit record “Three O’clock Blues” is released. It stays on the top of the charts for four months.
1965 – Releases the album, “Live at the Regal.”
June 6, 1968 – Plays the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco and receives his first standing ovation.
December 1969 – His seminal song, “The Thrill is Gone,” is released as a single.
May 2, 1970 – King debuts an all-blues show at Carnegie Hall.
October 8, 1970 – Appears on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
1971 – Co-founds, with attorney F. Lee Bailey, FAIRR – Foundation for the Advancement of Inmate Rehabilitation and Recreation – dedicated to the improvement of prison conditions.
1971 – Wins his first Grammy, in the Best R&B Vocal Performance Male category, for “The Thrill is Gone.”
1982 – Grammy winner for Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording for “There Must be a Better World Somewhere.”
1984 and 1986 – Grammy winner for Best Traditional Blues Recording.
1987 – Is inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
1988 – Receives a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
1990 – Receives the National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment of the Arts.
1991 – Grammy winner for Best Traditional Blues Recording for “Live at San Quentin.”
1992 and 1994 – Grammy winner for Best Traditional Blues Album.
1994 – Performs at an invitation-only concert at Beijing’s Hard Rock Cafe.
1995 – Kennedy Center Honoree.
March 8, 1996 – “All Blues All Around Me,” King’s autobiography is published.
1997 – King wins the Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance along with Art Neville, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, Dr. John, Eric Clapton, Jimmie Vaughan, and Robert Cray for “SRV Shuffle.”
2000 – Grammy winner for Best Traditional Blues Album for “Blues on the Bayou.”
2001 – Wins the Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album for “Riding with the King” with Clapton and wins for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for “Is You Is, or Is You Ain’t (My Baby)” with Dr. John.
2003 – Grammy winner for Best Traditional Blues Album for “A Christmas Celebration of Hope” and for Best Pop Instrumental Performance for “Auld Lang Syne.” Separately, a historic site marker honoring King in his hometown of Indianola is unveiled along the Mississippi Blues Trail.
2006 – Wins a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album for “80.”
December 15, 2006 – King is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.
September 13, 2008 – The B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center opens to the public. In its first year, the center has more than 30,000 visitors.
February 2009 – Wins the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album for “One Kind Favor.”
February 27, 2012 – In celebration of the blues, King performs in the East Room of the White House with Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck and others.
December 11, 2012 – Documentary, “B.B. King: The Life of Riley,” opens in the United Kingdom.
October 3, 2014 – King falls ill after a show at Chicago’s House of Blues due to dehydration and exhaustion. The remainder of his tour is canceled.
April 2015 – Is hospitalized for dehydration.
April 7, 2015 – King posts a message on his official website saying he wants “to thank everyone for their concern and good wishes. I’m feeling much better and am leaving the hospital today.”
May 14, 2015 – Dies at the age of 89.
May 25, 2015 – Two of King’s adult children allege that he was poisoned to death by two individuals who worked for him.
July 14, 2015 – The Clark County coroner tells CNN that there was no evidence of poisoning in King’s death. Coroner John Fudenberg says, “Alzheimer’s disease was the cause of death with other significant contributing factors.”