B.B. King

Difficulty: Spectrum
Views: 39,294,595

Name: Riley B. King

DOB/Location: September 16, 1925, Itta Bena, Mississippi, USA. d. May 14th 2015 

Brief Biography

B.B. King is an undisputed blues guitar legend, synonymous with his Gibson ES-355s (all nicknamed ‘Lucille’), his huge voice and personality and an unfailing work ethic, playing 250+ shows a year for most of his playing life. 

B.B. King’s style was incredibly economical - very few players have ever filled so few notes with so much emotion - but he filled every note in his typically very short phrases with his sweet, singing tone and trademark vibrato which made him instantly recognisable. BB never plays rhythm guitar, the guitar is a voice to play a melody and he leaves the chords to others!

King was born in Mississippi in 1925, and was old enough to be exposed to the earliest generations of country blues; he was also influenced by jazz, swing and R’n’B, and his initial successes in the 1950s were as an R’n’B crossover star (check out this as an example). However, he soon found a wider worldwide audience for electric blues and became a massive influence on the generation of white blues players that emerged in the 1960s including Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. B.B. King left a huge recorded legacy but his most significant album is probably his Live At The Regal set from 1965.


B.B. played almost exclusively a Gibson ES-335 (which were all named 'Lucille') and he has his very own Lucille model made by Gibson which is based on a 335 but has no 'f holes', fine tuners on the bridge and a super fancy pickup selector! 

B.B. King Lucille 2015

He most famously played a Lab Series L5 (until it was auctioned by Eric Clapton at a charity event) but he also played many different Fender amps.

Related Lessons

The Thrill Is Gone [SOLO] by BB King
The Thrill Is Gone [RHYTHM] by BB King

Lick #06: BB King: BB Box 1 chord
Lick #13: BB King: That Slide!
Lick #20: BB King: Step To 4
Lick #27: BB King: Four Over 1
Lick #34: BB King: Maj6 End
Lick #41: BB King: BBs Arp
Lick #55: BB King: BB Big Bend

Videos To Check Out

‘The Thrill Is Gone’ (The featured video at the top of the page)
There are many videos for this song, which was B.B. King’s biggest crossover hit (released 1970). This 1993 performance is the most popular on YouTube and although it is in his later years, you can see all his trademarks and his deep soulful expression and youthful energy that never left him!

There are countless collaborations between B.B. King and other artists - some great (with Clapton/Cray/Vaughan), some not so great (with Pavarotti!) however this live performance in Zaire in 1974 is one of the coolest!

Here are some more awesome performances to check out:

How Blue Can You Get - 1973 (Sing Sing Prison): 

Everyday I Have The Blues - 1960's

Everyday I Have The Blues - 1983

Sweet Little Angel

Why I Sing The Blues / Don’t Answer The Door / Rock Me Baby

Unidentified Tune - Stockholm 1974 - this is beautiful!

3 O’Clock Blues


Official Site
Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Guitarists
B.B King on Wikipedia


The Guitar Greats



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