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Bb king guitar commercial

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B.B. King's stolen guitar ended up in a Las Vegas pawn shop, while that is precisely the reason they utilized it in their commercial.”. Signed by King, B. B. with David Ritz and a great selection of related books, That nickname was shortened to "B.B." and the guitarist cut his first. They won 15 Grammys together, got inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, toured the World, even starred in a Toyota commercial together! In.

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B.B. King

B.B. King (born Riley B. King; September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015) was an American blues musician, singer, songwriter, and guitarist.

Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at No. 6 on its 2011 list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time (previously ranked No. 3 in the 2003 edition of the same list), and he was ranked No. 17 in Gibson's "Top 50 Guitarists of All Time". According to Edward M. Komara, King "introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending and shimmering vibrato that would influence virtually every electric blues guitarist that followed." King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. King was also inducted into 2014 class of the R&B Music Hall of Fame. He is considered one of the most influential blues musicians of all time, earning the nickname "The King of Blues", and one of the "Three Kings of the Blues Guitar" (along with Albert King andFreddie King). King is also known for performing tirelessly throughout his musical career, appearing at 250–300 concerts per year until his seventies. In 1956 it was noted that he appeared at 342 shows. King continued to appear at 100 shows a year through the end of his career.

Over the years, King has developed one of the world's most identifiable guitar styles. He borrowed from Blind Lemon Jefferson, T-Bone Walker and others, integrating his precise and complex vocal-like string bends and his left hand vibrato, both of which have become indispensable components of rock guitarists' vocabulary. His economy and phrasing has been a model for thousands of players.[10] King has mixed blues, jazz, swing, mainstream pop and jump into a unique sound. In King's words, "When I sing, I play in my mind; the minute I stop singing orally, I start to sing by playing Lucille."

B B King Live At The Royal Albert Hall 2011 1080p HD

Early life

Riley B. King was born on September 16, 1925, on a cotton plantation near the town of Itta Bena, Mississippi, the son of sharecroppers Albert and Nora Ella King. He considers the nearby city of Indianola, Mississippi to be his home.[citation needed] When Riley was 4 years old, his mother left his father for another man, and the boy was raised by his maternal grandmother, Elnora Farr, in Kilmichael, Mississippi.

While young, King sang in the gospel choir at Elkhorn Baptist Church in Kilmichael. It seems that at the age of 12, he purchased his first guitar for $15.00, although another source indicates he was given his first guitar by Bukka White, his mother's first cousin (King's grandmother and White's mother were sisters). In 1943, King left Kilmichael to work as a tractor driver and play guitar with the Famous St. John's Quartet of Inverness, Mississippi, performing at area churches and onWGRM in Greenwood, Mississippi.

In 1946, King followed Bukka White to Memphis, Tennessee. White took him in for the next ten months.[11] However, King shortly returned to Mississippi, where he decided to prepare himself better for the next visit, and returned to West Memphis, Arkansas, two years later in 1948. He performed on Sonny Boy Williamson's radio program on KWEM in West Memphis, where he began to develop an audience. King's appearances led to steady engagements at the Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis and later to a ten-minute spot on the Memphis radio station WDIA. King's Spot became so popular, it was expanded and became the Sepia Swing Club.

Initially he worked at WDIA as a singer and disc jockey, gaining the nickname Beale Street Blues Boy, which was later shortened to Blues Boy and finally to B.B. It was there that he first met T-Bone Walker. King said, "Once I'd heard him for the first time, I knew I'd have to have [an electric guitar] myself. 'Had' to have one, short of stealing"!



In 1949, King began recording songs under contract with Los Angeles-based RPM Records. Many of King's early recordings were produced by Sam Phillips, who later founded Sun Records. Before his RPM contract, King had debuted on Bullet Records by issuing the single "Miss Martha King" (1949), which did not chart well. "My very first recordings [in 1949] were for a company out of Nashville called Bullet, the Bullet Record Transcription company," King recalls. "I had horns that very first session. I had Phineas Newborn on piano; his father played drums, and his brother, Calvin, played guitar with me. I had Tuff Green on bass, Ben Branch on tenor sax, his brother, Thomas Branch, on trumpet, and a lady trombone player. The Newborn family were the house band at the famous Plantation Inn in West Memphis."

King assembled his own band; the B.B. King Review, under the leadership of Millard Lee. The band initially consisted of Calvin Owens and Kenneth Sands (trumpet), Lawrence Burdin (alto saxophone), George Coleman (tenor saxophone), Floyd Newman (baritone saxophone), Millard Lee (piano), George Joyner (bass) and Earl Forest and Ted Curry (drums). Onzie Horne was a trained musician elicited as an arranger to assist King with his compositions. By his own admission, he cannot play chords well and always relies on improvisation. This was followed by tours across the USA with performances in major theaters in cities such as Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit and St. Louis, as well as numerous gigs in small clubs and juke joints of the southern US states.

In the winter of 1949, King played at a dance hall in Twist, Arkansas. In order to heat the hall, a barrel half-filled with kerosene was lit, a fairly common practice at the time. During a performance, two men began to fight, knocking over the burning barrel and sending burning fuel across the floor. The hall burst into flames, which triggered an evacuation. Once outside, King realized that he had left his guitar inside the burning building. He entered the blaze to retrieve his beloved instrument, a Gibson hollow electric. The next day, King learned that the two men were fighting over a woman named Lucille. King named that first guitar Lucille, as well as every one he owned since that experience, as a reminder never again to do something as stupid as to fight over a woman or run into a burning building.

Following his first Billboard magazine Rhythm and Blues charts number one, "3 O'Clock Blues" (February 1952), B.B. King became one of the most important names in R&B music in the 1950s, amassing an impressive list of hits including "You Know I Love You," "Woke Up This Morning," "Please Love Me," "When My Heart Beats like a Hammer," "Whole Lotta Love," "You Upset Me Baby," "Every Day I Have the Blues", "Sneakin' Around," "Ten Long Years," "Bad Luck," "Sweet Little Angel", "On My Word of Honor," and "Please Accept My Love." This led to a significant increase in his weekly earnings, from about $85 to $2,500,[23] with appearances at major venues such as the Howard Theater in Washington and the Apollo in New York, as well as touring the entire "Chitlin' circuit". 1956 became a record-breaking year, with 342 concerts booked and three recording sessions. That same year he founded his own record label, Blues Boys Kingdom, with headquarters at Beale Street in Memphis. There, among other projects, he produced artists such as Millard Lee and Levi Seabury. In 1962, King signed to ABC-Paramount Records, which was later absorbed into MCA Records, and this hence into his current label, Geffen Records. In November 1964, King recorded the Live at the Regal album at the Regal Theater in Chicago, Illinois.

King won a 1970 Grammy Award for the song "The Thrill Is Gone"; his version became a hit on both the pop and R&Bcharts, which was rare during that time for an R&B artist. It also gained the number 183 spot in Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. He gained further visibility among rock audiences as an opening act on The Rolling Stones' 1969 American Tour. King's mainstream success continued throughout the 1970s with songs like "To Know You is to Love You" and "I Like to Live the Love".

King was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980, and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2004 he was awarded the international Polar Music Prize, given to artists "in recognition of exceptional achievements in the creation and advancement of music."

From the 1980s onward he has continued to maintain a highly visible and active career, appearing on numerous television shows and performing 300 nights a year. In 1988, King reached a new generation of fans with the single "When Love Comes to Town", a collaborative effort between King and the Irish band U2 on their Rattle and Hum album. Also that year King played for the 1988 Republican National Conventionat the behest of Lee Atwater, chairman of the Republican Party. King has remained friendly with the Bush Family ever since and in 1990 was awarded the Presidential Medal of the Arts by George H.W. Bush and the Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush in 2008. In 2000, King teamed up with guitarist Eric Clapton to record Riding With the King. In 1998, King appeared in The Blues Brothers 2000, playing the part of the lead singer of the Louisiana Gator Boys, along with Clapton, Dr. John, Koko Taylor and Bo Diddley. King performed a version of "Chains & Things" with Carole King on his box set King of the Blues.

2006–2015: farewell tour and later activities

In 2006, King went on a "farewell" world tour, although he has been active ever since it ended. The tour was partly supported by Northern Irish guitarist Gary Moore, with whom King had previously toured and recorded, including the song "Since I Met You Baby". It started in the UK, and continued with performances in the Montreux Jazz Festival and in Zürich at the Blues at Sunset. During his show in Montreux at the Stravinski Hall he jammed with Joe Sample, Randy Crawford, David Sanborn,Gladys Knight, Lella James, Andre Beeka, Earl Thomas, Stanley Clarke, John McLaughlin, Barbara Hendricks and George Duke. The European leg of the Farewell Tour ended in Luxembourg on September 19, 2006, at the D'Coque Arena (support act: Todd Sharpville). In November and December, King played six times in Brazil.

In June 2006, King was present at a memorial of his first radio broadcast at the Three Deuces Building in Greenwood, Mississippi, where an official marker of the Mississippi Blues Trail was erected. The same month, a groundbreaking was held for a new museum, dedicated to King. in Indianola, Mississippi. The B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center opened on September 13, 2008. In late October 2006, he recorded a concert CD and DVD entitled B.B. King: Live at his B.B. King Blues Clubs in Nashville and Memphis. The four-night production featured his regular B.B. King Blues Band and captured his show as he performs it nightly around the world. It was his first live performance recording in 14 years.

In 2007, King played at Eric Clapton's second Crossroads Guitar Festival (Parts of this performance were subsequently aired in a PBS broadcast and released on theCrossroads II DVD.), contributed the song "Goin' Home", to Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino (with Ivan Neville's DumpstaPhunk), and "One Shoe Blues" to Sandra Boynton's children's album Blue Moo, accompanied by a pair of sock puppets in the video.

In the summer of 2008, King played at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, the Chicago Blues Festival, and at the Monterey Blues Festival. On the winter, King was the closing act at the 51st Grammy Nomination Concert, and played at The Kennedy Center Honors Awards Show; his performance was in honor of actor Morgan Freeman. Also in 2008 he was inducted into theHollywood Bowl Hall of Fame alongside Liza Minnelli and Sir James Galway, andSirius XM Radio's Bluesville channel was renamed B.B. King's Bluesville.

In Summer 2009, King started a European Tour with concerts in France, Germany, Belgium, Finland and Denmark.

King performed at the Mawazine festival in Rabat, Morocco, on May 27, 2010. In June 2010, King performed at 2010 Crossroads Guitar Festival with The Robert Cray Band, Jimmie Vaughan and Eric Clapton. In March 2010, King contributed to Cyndi Lauper's album Memphis Blues, which was released on June 22, 2010.

In 2011, King played at the Glastonbury Music Festival, and in The Royal Albert Hall, London, supported by Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, Ronnie Wood, Mick Hucknall and Slash.

On February 21, 2012, King was among the performers of "In Performance at the White House: Red, White and Blues", during which Barack Obama sang part of "Sweet Home Chicago". King recorded for the debut album of rapper and producerBig K.R.I.T., who also hails from Mississippi. On July 5, 2012, King performed a concert at the Byblos Festival, Lebanon.

On May 26, 2013, King appeared at New Orleans Jazz Festival

Over a period of 64 years, King has played in excess of 15,000 performances.

A feature documentary about B.B. King narrated by Morgan Freeman, and directed by Jon Brewer was released on October 15, 2012.


B.B. King uses simple equipment. He played guitars made by different manufacturers early in his career: he played a Fender Telecaster on most of his recordings with RPM Records (USA). However, he is best known for playing variants of theGibson ES-355. In 1980 Gibson Guitar Corporation launched the B.B. King Lucille model. In 2005 Gibson made a special run of 80 Gibson Lucilles, referred to as the "80th Birthday Lucille", the first prototype of which was given as a birthday gift to King, and which he has been using ever since.

King uses Lab Series L5 2x12" combo amp and has been using this amp for a long time. The amp was made by Norlin Industries for Gibson in the 1970s and '80s. Other popular L5 users are Allan Holdsworth and Ty Tabor of King's X. The L5 has an onboard compressor, parametric EQ, and four inputs. King has also used a Fender Twin Reverb.

He uses his signature model strings "Gibson SEG-BBS B.B. King Signature Electric Guitar Strings" with gauges: 10-13-17p-32w-45w-54w and D'Andrea 351 MD SHL CX (Medium .71mm, Tortoise Shell, Celluloid) Picks.

B.B. King's Blues Club

In 1991, B.B. King's Blues Club opened on Beale Street in Memphis, and in 1994, a second club was launched at Universal City Walk in Los Angeles. A third club in New York City's Times Square opened in June 2000. Two further clubs opened atFoxwoods Casino in Connecticut in January 2002 and another in Nashville in 2003.[38] A club in West Palm Beach opened in the fall of 2009 and an additional one, based in the Mirage Hotel, Las Vegas, opened in the winter of 2009. In 2007, a B.B. King's Blues Club in Orlando opened on International Drive. The Memphis, Nashville, Orlando, West Palm Beach and Las Vegas clubs are all the same company.


King was widely regarded as one of the most influential blues guitarists of all time, inspiring countless other electric blues and blues rock guitarists.


In 2001, King signed on as an official supporter of Little Kids Rock, a non-profit organization that provides free musical instruments and instruction to children in underprivileged public schools throughout the US. He sits on LKR's Honorary Board of Directors.

TV appearances

B.B. King has made guest appearances in numerous popular television shows, including The Cosby ShowThe Young and the RestlessGeneral HospitalThe Fresh Prince of Bel-AirSesame StreetMarried... with ChildrenSanford and Son, andTouched by an Angel. He also had a cameo in the movie Spies Like Us. He voiced a character in the last episode of Cow and Chicken.

A version of B.B. King was made for the popular kids show Between The Lions, in which Theo played as a singer named "B.B. the King Of Beasts".

King appeared in a 2014 commercial for the Toyota Camry with the Lucille guitar after the guitar was found in a storage lockerand signed by King himself.

King, who was also a diabetic, appeared in TV commercials for OneTouch Ultra from 2002-05, and again in 2011 with Crystal Bowersox.

Personal life

King has been married twice, to Martha Lee Denton, 1946 to 1952, and to Sue Carol Hall, 1958 to 1966. Both marriages ended because of the heavy demands made on the marriage by King's 250 performances a year. It is reported that he has fathered 15 children and, as of 2004, had 50 grandchildren. He has lived with Type II diabetes for over 20 years and is a high-profile spokesman in the fight against the disease, appearing in advertisements for diabetes-management products along with American Idol season 9 contestant Crystal Bowersox.

King is an FAA licensed Private Pilot and learned to fly in 1963 at what was then Chicago Hammond Airport in Lansing, Illinois. He frequently flew to gigs, but under the advice of his insurance company and manager in 1995, King was asked to fly only with another licensed pilot; and as a result, King stopped flying around the age of 70. His favorite singer is Frank Sinatra. In his autobiography King speaks about how he was, and is, a "Sinatra nut" and how he went to bed every night listening to Sinatra's classic album In the Wee Small Hours. King has credited Sinatra for opening doors to black entertainers who were not given the chance to play in "white-dominated" venues; Sinatra got B.B. King into the main clubs in Las Vegas during the 1960s.

On May 1, 2015, after two hospitalizations caused by complications from high blood pressure and diabetes, King announced on his website that he was in hospice care at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada. King died on May 14 at home.


B.B. King passed away at age 89 on May 14, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.


Studio albums

  • Singin' the Blues (1957)
  • The Blues (1958)
  • B.B. King Wails (1959)
  • King of the Blues (1960)
  • Sings Spirituals (1960)
  • The Great B.B. King (1960)
  • My Kind of Blues (1961)
  • Blues For Me (1961)
  • Blues in My Heart (1962)
  • Easy Listening Blues (1962)
  • B.B. King (1963)
  • Mr. Blues (1963)
  • Confessin' the Blues (1966)
  • Blues on Top of Blues (1968)
  • Lucille (1968)
  • Live & Well (1969)
  • Completely Well (1969)
  • Indianola Mississippi Seeds (1970)
  • B.B. King in London (1971)
  • L.A. Midnight (1972)
  • Guess Who (1972)
  • To Know You Is to Love You (1973)
  • Friends (1974)
  • King Size (1977)
  • Midnight Believer (1978)
  • Take It Home (1979)
  • There Must Be a Better World Somewhere (1981)
  • Love Me Tender (1982)
  • Blues 'N' Jazz (1983)
  • Six Silver Strings (1985)
  • King of the Blues: 1989 (1988)
  • There Is Always One More Time(1991)
  • Blues Summit (1993)
  • Lucille & Friends (1995)
  • Deuces Wild (1997)
  • Blues on the Bayou (1998)
  • Let the Good Times Roll (1999)
  • Makin' Love Is Good for You (2000)
  • Riding with the King (2000, with Eric Clapton)
  • A Christmas Celebration of Hope(2001)
  • Reflections (2003)
  • B. B. King & Friends: 80 (2005)
  • One Kind Favor (2008)

Honors and awards

  • In 1977, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music by Yale University
  • In 1980, he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
  • In 1987, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
  • In 1990, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
  • In 1991, he was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship from the NEA.
  • King was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors in 1995. This is given to recognize "the lifelong accomplishments and extraordinary talents of our nation's most prestigious artists."
  • In 2004, the Royal Swedish Academy of Music awarded him the Polar Music Prize for his "significant contributions to the blues".
  • On December 15, 2006, President George W. Bush awarded King the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • On May 27, 2007, King was awarded an honorary doctorate in music by Brown University.
  • On May 14, 2008, King was presented with the keys to the city of Utica, New York; and on May 18, 2008, the mayor of Portland, Maine, Edward Suslovic, declared the day "B.B. King Day" in the city. Prior to King's performance at the Merrill Auditorium, Suslovic presented King with the keys to the city.
  • In 2009, Time named B.B. King No.3 on its list of the 10 best electric guitarists.
  • Each year during the first week in June, a B.B. King Homecoming Festival is held in Indianola, Mississippi.
  • A Mississippi Blues Trail marker was added for B.B. King, commemorating his birthplace.
  • On May 29, 2010, Sabrosa Park (at the small town of Sabrosa, north of Portugal) was renamed B.B. King Park in honor of King and the free concert he played before 20,000 people.

Grammy Awards

Years reflect the year in which the Grammy was awarded, for music released in the previous year.

  • 1971: Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for "The Thrill Is Gone".
  • 1982: Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording for "There Must Be a Better World Somewhere".
  • 1984: Best Traditional Blues Recording for "Blues 'n Jazz".
  • 1986: Best Traditional Blues Recording for "My Guitar Sings the Blues".
  • 1991: Best Traditional Blues Recording for "Live at San Quentin".
  • 1992: Best Traditional Blues Album for "Live at the Apollo".
  • 1994: Best Traditional Blues Album for "Blues Summit".
  • 1997: Best Rock Instrumental Performance for "SRV Shuffle".
  • 2000: Best Traditional Blues Album for "Blues on the Bayou".
  • 2001: Best Traditional Blues Album for "Riding with the King".
  • 2001: Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for "Is You or Is You Ain't (Baby)".
  • 2003: Best Traditional Blues Album for "A Christmas Celebration of Hope".
  • 2003: Best Pop Instrumental Performance for "Auld Lang Syne".
  • 2006: Best Traditional Blues Album for "80".
  • 2009: Best Traditional Blues Album for "One Kind Favor".

King was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987.

A Grammy Hall of Fame Award was given to "The Thrill is Gone" in 1998, an award given to recordings that are at least 25 years old and that have "qualitative or historical significance."



BB King’s guitar 'Lucille' sells at auction for $280,000

A guitar named Lucille that was one of the last to be played by legendary blues musician BB King has sold at auction for $280,000 (£225,000).

The black Gibson ES-345 prototype was given to King as an 80th birthday gift in 2005, and was the first in a limited edition of 80. King’s autograph is scrawled on its back.

Prior to the auction, the guitar was valued at $80,000 to $100,000, with auction house Julien’s Auctions confirming this week that its buyer wished to remain anonymous.

King, who died in 2015 at the age of 89, had named his primary guitars “Lucille” since 1949, when a dance hall he was performing in caught fire amid a brawl between two love rivals. King was helped to safety from the fire but ran back into the burning venue to rescue his guitar.

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After learning that the two men were fighting over a woman named Lucille, King decided to name all of his guitars after her in tribute.

The Gibson sold at auction was used by King between the years of 2005 and 2009, until it was stolen and sold on the collectors’ market. After a guitar collector bought the item and investigated its origins, it was returned to King that same year.

The guitar was one of more than 550 items from King’s estate sold at a Los Angeles auction last weekend, with awards, personal memorabilia and his own record collection fetching $1.3 million in total, Julien’s Auctions confirmed.

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The Arsenal… Full list of B.B. King Guitars

We’ve already talked about “Lucille”, how she got her name and a little about what kind of guitar she was. Now we’re going to get into some detail on the guitar specs and let you know which guitars were used on which tracks. I think this is important because you need to know which guitar you need to get the sound that you want. B. B. King’s tones varied some depending on what era of his music you are listening to. You have to remember that B. B. King would sound like B. B. King no matter what gear he might be using. The only way I can explain it is that his style is engrained in him and only he can truly sound like him. We are just giving you tips to get a tone close to his.

B.B. King Instrumental Gear

In the early years, like many of us, B. B. King used what he had and just like to play. It took him years to be satisfied with his gear and make the Gibson ES-355 and Lab Series L5 his go to rig. You can tell a huge difference in the sound of the early years from his sound after he settled into his signature rig.

Here is a list of the guitars that B. B. King used throughout his career. The guitar models with a link will take you to an example of B. B. King playing that guitar, so you can hear what it sounds like.

  1. Gibson L-30 (The Original “Lucille”) – 1935-1943 – Acoustic guitar fitted with a DeArmond pickup.
  2. Gibson ES-5 – 1949-1955 – The ES-5 was the first in the ES (Electric Spanish) series to use 3 pickups (P-90 pickups). There were 3 separate volume knobs, 1 for each separate pickup and 1 master tone knob. This, in my opinion, gives better control over the tones that it can produce over guitars with a pickup selector.
  3. Gibson ES-125 – 1941-1942 then 1946-1950 – The ES-125 featured 1 P-90 pickup with 1 volume and 1 tone control.
  4. Gibson Byrdland – 1955-1975, 1977, 1978 and 1992 – This was the first in Gibson’s “Thinline” series. The Byrdland was stock with 2 Alnico pickups from 1955-1958 and Gibson Humbuckers from 1959 and later. The controls are the same as a Les Paul, 1 3-way pickup selector switch, 2 volume and 2 tone controls.
    Gibson L-4 CES BYRDLAND - B.B. King Guitar


  5. Gibson ES-175 – 1949-Present – The ES-175 replaced the ES-150 and took over the jazz world like the Les Paul took over the blues and rock and roll world. Originally it only had 1 single coil pickup. In 1953 they added a second single coil pickup and then in 1957 they changed it to 2 humbuckers. It is available now in all 3 configurations. The controls are set up the same as a Les Paul, 2 volumes, 2 tones and 1 three-way switch at the top.
    Gibson 1959 ES 175D - B.B. King Guitar


  6. Gibson ES-335 – 1958-Present – This was Gibson’s answer to getting a warmer tone than a solid body while limiting feedback. The ES-335 is semi hollow, it’s like a hollow body with wood baffles down the middle to reduce the feedback. The controls are almost the same as the ES-175 except that the three-way switch is at the bottom by the volume and tone controls. The dual humbuckers give a warm tone while suppressing any buzz.
    Gibson ES-335 - B.B. King Guitar


  7. Gibson ES-345 – 1958-1981 – The ES-345 was an updated version of the ES-335. The 345 features a multi-position “varitone” switch which was used to change the frequencies of the pickups to add depth and “color” to the sound. The “varitone” is a big part of the B. B. King sound.
    Gibson 2015 ES-345 - B.B. King Guitar


  8. Gibson ES-355 – 1958-1982 – Look no further than this, this is the top of the line when it comes to the ES series, however not as popular as the 335 or 345. This is due to the stereo limitations of the “varitone” and a mono/stereo input jack. Other differences in the 355 were the high-end aesthetics and ebony fretboard which was used for a smoother sound.
    Gibson ES-355 - Lucille Guitar


  9. Gibson “Lucille” – 1980-2015 – Gibson produced its B. B. King signature model, the “Lucille,” with input from B. B. King himself. This is an ES-355 with some differences. The F holes are removed, as requested by B. B. King, to remove feedback. The standard model features a maple neck, dot inlays and chrome hardware. The custom models include gold hardware and block inlays.
    2015 Gibson Lucille - B.B. King


  10. Gibson “Lucille” 80th Birthday – 2005 – Only 80 of these were ever made! This is a collector guitar. If you find one and can afford it, you are doing better than me! You can buy one used for upwards of $20,000, unless it is one of the prototypes then it would be worth more!
  11. Fender Esquire – 1950 (first run), 1951-1969 (second run) – This is the early telecaster and came in single and dual pickup models. B. B. King played a 1950’s Fender Esquire on his album “The Modern Records 1950-1951”.
    Fender Esquire - B.B. King Guitar


If you want to capture the sound of B. B. King, the guitar to have is a Gibson “Lucille”, ES-335 or ES-355. I know they are expensive as are all of the guitars on this list. One thing that I want you to remember is that you can always buy an Epiphone version of most of these guitars. There are comparable knock off brands that can help. This list is a guide for you know what guitars gave B. B. King his sound. This journey is a guide, and you are in control of the sound that you get. I urge you to do some research to help you choose. Most of all enjoy yourself, that’s the important part!


"King of the Blues" B.B. King began as a disc jockey in Memphis before finding fame as a blues and R&B guitarist, with hits like "The Thrill Is Gone."

Who Was B.B. King? 

After serving in World War II, Riley B. King, better known as B.B. King, became a disc jockey in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was dubbed "the Beale Street Blues Boy." That nickname was shortened to "B.B." and the guitarist cut his first record in 1949. He spent the next several decades recording and touring, playing more than 300 shows a year. An artist of international renown, King worked with other musicians from rock, pop and country backgrounds. He won his 15th Grammy Award in 2009. King died in 2015.

Early Career

A singer and guitarist born into a sharecropping family on September 16, 1925, in Itta Bena, Mississippi, King became one of the best-known blues performers, an important consolidator of blues styles, and a primary model for rock guitarists. Following his service in the U.S. Army, he began his career as a disc jockey in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was dubbed "the Beale Street Blues Boy." That nickname was soon shortened to "B.B."

King made his first recording in 1949, and the next year began a 12-year-long association with Kent/RPM/Modern, for which he recorded a string of rhythm and blues hits, including "You Know I Love You," "Woke Up This Morning" and "Three O'Clock Blues," which reached No. 1 on the R&B charts and became his first national hit. He also toured the nightclub circuit continuously, averaging more than 300 shows annually for over 30 years. His style of music earned him the title "King of the Blues."

B.B. King's Life in Photos



Famed Guitar 'Lucille'

Coincidentally, the year that King made his first recording was also the same year that he named his beloved guitar. King attended a dance in Twist, Arkansas, that had a barrel lit with kerosene in the middle of the dance floor, used to keep the crowd warm late at night. While there, a fight broke out and the barrel was knocked over, causing a fire to spread throughout the venue. Everyone evacuated, including King, but he rushed back inside to retrieve his prized guitar.

Luckily, he managed to escape with his guitar as the building collapsed around him. King later learned that the fight erupted because of a woman who worked at the venue named Lucille. From then on, King named his guitar "Lucille" to remind himself never to do anything so foolish again.

'The Thrill Is Gone'

In 1962, King signed with ABC Records, which released Live at the Regal (1965), a benchmark blues concert album. In 1969, he released his biggest hit single, "The Thrill is Gone." The first bluesman to tour the Soviet Union in 1979, by this time he had also become the first bluesman to enter the pop mainstream, making regular appearances in Las Vegas, Nevada and on network television.

King also found commercial success with the many collaborations he made over the years, including with artists Eric Clapton, Elton John, Sheryl Crow, Van Morrison and Bonnie Raitt. In 1987, King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Highly-Acclaimed Musical Artist

One of music's best-regarded performers, King picked up the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album in 2006 for his duets album 80, having won the award multiple times over the decades. Later that year, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. The legendary singer and guitarist also became the subject of his own museum, which opened its doors in 2008. The B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola, Mississippi, is dedicated to King's music, the music which influenced him, and the history of the delta area.

Also in 2008, King released his album One Kind Favor to critical acclaim. He did his own take on songs by John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker and Lonnie Johnson, earning yet another Grammy Award for his efforts, marking his 15th win. In February 2012, King played a special gig at the White House with Buddy Guy and others. He and his fellow performers were accompanied by President Barack Obama on the song "Sweet Home Chicago."

Later Years and Death

King played more than 250 concerts per year well into his 70s. In his 80s, the number of tour dates the guitarist booked were more limited in number. His health had been deteriorating over the past few years. After a shaky concert in April 2014 at the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis, fans voiced their concern about King on social media saying he appeared to be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. After that show, the blues legend issued a public apology for his erratic performance. In October 2014, the 89-year old fell onstage during a performance at Chicago’s House of Blues and canceled several upcoming gigs. In a statement issued on his web site after the fall, it said the singer had been “diagnosed with dehydration and suffering from exhaustion.” But no matter where he was, King had his signature guitar "Lucille" in his hands.

While in hospice care, King died in his sleep on May 14, 2015, in Las Vegas, Nevada, leaving behind an enduring musical legacy.

In the days following King’s death, his daughters Karen Williams and Patty King said they believed King's manager LaVerne Toney and personal assistant Myron Johnson had poisoned their father. "I believe my father was poisoned and that he was administered foreign substances to induce his premature death," the daughters said in identical affidavits. "I believe my father was murdered."

A lawyer for King’s estate released a statement, saying, "The allegations are baseless and unfounded and are unsupported in reality. Ms. Toney did everything she could to carry out the wishes of Mr. King while he was alive, and continues to carry out Mr. King's wishes after his death."

On May 27, 2015, thousands of fans lined Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee to watch a funeral procession in honor of the late blues legend, who was nicknamed the Beale Street Blues Boy. King was be buried in Indianola, Mississippi, his hometown, on May 30.


That's what BB King's friends call him: B. And in one of those smack-me-is-this-real experiences over the course of 35 crazy years in the advertising business, I got to be friends with B. Ok, friends with business, to turn a phrase.

I grew up a white-boy wannabe blues guitar player, getting close enough to play out in some bands and adventurous enough to end up with a '59 Fender Stratocaster and a '53 Telecaster. But the main thing is I grew up on blues music - R&B - "ethnic" they called it back when I was listening to the two black radio stations in St. Louis - KXLW and KATZ. And BB King was the man, despite never really having a mainstream commercial hit until "The Thrill is Gone" earned him a Grammy in 1970. Didn't mater. There was "Rock Me Baby," "Every Day I Have the Blues," "Sweet Little Angel," "How Blue Can You Get?," and many more, for those who knew where to find them...

Jump ahead, through the blur of high school and college and grad school - after which I land this amazing job with a fabulous St. Louis ad agency - D'Arcy MacManus Masius - who had Budweiser, and most of the Anheuser-Busch business, since 1909. A year later I'm in the beer business - which for me was like going to heaven without having to die first - and three years later I'm a wise ass 28-year old running the business, or at least I was supposed to be.

Then everything changes: we launch "This Bud's for You" and begin to make advertising and beer history. In fact Budweiser was the first ever advertiser to use blues music in their advertising, something BBC interviewed me for for their two-part documentary, "The History of Blues in America." Music was always at the core of Budweiser's advertising: "Where There's Life There's Bud;" "When You Say Budweiser, You've Said it All;" "Here Comes the King;" and now "This Bud's for You." Until then the agency produced various arrangements of the commercial jingle with New York and Los Angeles studios; "sound alikes," they called them. Now it's time for "This Bud's for You" and this young black kid, the only one at D'Arcy at the time, comes to me with what can only be described as a precursor to ... rap. "Bustin' Bud Suds," he calls it, and tells me it should sound like Johnny Guitar Watson. 'Course I knew who JT was - so, says me, hell, let's just hire Johnny! And we do. No more sound alikes. We go on to hire ... Rick James, The Temptations, George Thorougood, Billy Preston, The Busboys, Stanley Clarke, Herbie Hancock, Bootsy Collins, Lou Rawls, Frankie Beverly and the Maze and many more ...

And BB King.

Got to have BB.

First time I actually meet B is at a taping of the United Negro College Fund's "Lou Rawls Parade of Stars" fundraiser, in Las Vegas. I'd hired Lou to be Budweiser's national spokesperson ( - the first ever black to represent a national brand. Lou knows I love B and takes me over and introduces me. B gives me one of his personalized guitar picks. From humble beginnings ...

Lou Rawls, the author, and BB King, backstage, Las Vegas, 1979.

Our New York agency guys set a meeting for me and B after a concert in St. Louis, and backstage I go to meet my lifelong, he's-the-Man idol. I walk into his dressing room, crowded with admirers, hangers on, band members and road girl friends, and soon as I do B's ushering everybody out! Clears them all out, so that he and I can get down to business. I take a folding chair in the back room and my eyes land on ... Lucille! Jesus - there it is, his baby, his Lucille, sitting right damn there on the floor in an open guitar case, ready for him to take out on stage in about 15 minutes. It was all I could do to not get down on my knees and submit to solitary worship or something.

This meeting is for concept only. The mojo. Sure, he says, he'd love to do something with our "This Bud's for You" music. Artists loved our take on "commercial jingles:" no sell, no endorsements, no "this is BB King, drink Budweiser." Just the Bud melody and vocal in the first and last eight bars, and in between - jam. The melody is so well known we get most artists to do instrumental-only versions! Which we air. Zero words. Just the music. Most artists jam to their next release, knowing they'd get huge airplay. All that's left is formality with B's agent, which is done before his next concert, two nights later.

A few weeks later and it's time for the session. We're doing it in San Diego where he's got a major arena concert the night before, so we're there in time for the gig. Backstage I go, again. This time the room's crowded and no need to clear it out. And there, over in the corner not paying nobody no mind, is ... John Lee Hooker! Jesus! Well, almost. Actually, better. Over I go, got to say hey. He's looking at me with some kind of curiosity and finally says, to this white guy, "Boy, how you know who I am?" Seriously, I'm thinking? "Cause, I do. I grew up with you, and I love your shit." He likes that.

Next day - ok late afternoon, ok evening - we're in the studio, which one has long since escaped me. B's bus brings them all, him, the band, miscellaneous whoevers, and we get into it. Each track is laid down: rhythm, horns, background vocals, B's lead vocal.

B sits right there in the control room with the rest of us for the whole session. Occasional comment, likes what's going on. Story telling. One he tells me is a classic: one night after a gig out on the road B's telling me he's ready to call on one of his many lady's. He shows up at her house and knocks on the door. This is way past the midnight hour ... and from way back of the house he hears, "B, is that you?!?" It's Ray Charles himself! "The great Ray Charles! The high priest." Back in there with B's lady of choice for this town, for this night. Off B goes, no doubt to his second choice. I know this is true for one because a creative partner of mine, years later, works with Ray and gets the same story. Besides, more years later I'm replaying the story to B, and he says, "Yeah, and I know who that was." And names her. Damn if I can't remember the lady's name!

"This Bud's for You" session, in control room before laying down guitar lead, 1980.
(Autographed later).

Then it's time for B and Lucille to lay down the guitar solo. It's just B out in the studio all by his ownself, with his baby. And he's trying to get the melody. Again. And again. And he just cannot hit it. B doesn't play notes. He plays from his soul. I doubt if he can even read music, and am sure he never needed to.

He's sweating bullets. He's pushing it. The notes just ain't there. I'm in the control room and look over to his bandleader. We shake our heads, simpatico.

So out I go into the studio, and kneel down next to my idol, my man, to talk. Back in the control room my agency guys are going, "Jesus Christ, here goes Arnold out there to tell BB King how to play guitar." Not exactly. What I tell him is, "forget it B. Screw the melody. Play your thing. Play B's version of the intro." A palpable sigh of relief, and gratitude. And he kills it.

Now it's like 3 am and his crew is long gone, out in his bus. I ask B if we can get a photo and sure, he says, and goes out to his bus and wakes every last dude up to come back inside for a group shot ...

Budweiser recording session, San Diego, 1980.

Next time I see him is back in St. Louis, at the old StL Arena. He's appearing with Albert King - another one of those guys I worshiped - and B introduces me to him. This is years after our commercial session. B must know by now there's nothing much to gain, outside of connecting a fellow blues dude to another legend. That's what kind of guy B is.

BB King, the author, Albert King, St. Louis Arena, 1983

I see him a few more times along the way, when he comes to New York. I remember one time sitting back stage with him when Dr. John - who's sharing the bill - comes by to say they need to play Happy Birthday for somebody. "What key you want?," Doc says. "B," says B. Each time it's his road manager that I see first, usually opening the door to the dressing rooms. "Here he 'tis," he'd say, "Give that man a Schlitz!" And we'd all laugh, every time. A good guy. Can't remember his name, but he would send me postcards from Europe, when they were on tour.

Last time I see BB King is up in Peekskill, New York, after an appearance at the historic Paramount Theater. By now he's talking to the audience as much as he's doing music. Doesn't matter. He's earned it. After his concert I sit outside his bus waiting, long after midnight and some 30 years and a lot of miles after our Budweiser recording session. Finally, in I go, and (re) introduce myself as the Budweiser guy who did that session with him those many years ago. "Yeah, I remember," he's gracious enough to say, even though I can't imagine he really does. Didn't matter. This is the kind of guy BB King is. I tell him the Ray story. He remembers that one for sure.

The author and BB King, in his bus, Peekskill, NY 2012

The whole world, not just the music world, has lost a special soul in BB King. Despite his fame, his fortune, his legendary accomplishments, he will forever be a genuine, humble, gracious member of the human race, representing racial blindness and a gratitude for his blessings, for what he was able to achieve and, in his mannerisms and decorum, was able to give back. This was evident in his concerts, and his personality. And in the man I was blessed to have known some.

"Oh I'm free, free, free now ...*" You sure are my friend. And your spirit, and music, will live on in us forevah!

*From "The Thrill is Gone," as recorded by BB King (Hawkins, Roy/Darnell, Rick R.).

All photos used by permission of the author.

Tim Arnold
10 May 2014
[email protected]


5 songs guitarists need to hear by… BB King

It’s five years since the King Of The Blues died, aged 89, and the outpouring of tributes from the music world ensured he was sent off in fitting style. Famously, he was perhaps the only guitarist who could be recognised from one note, an achievement that was the result of his totally idiosyncratic approach to the instrument. But how did his unique style arise?

He left obsessing about gear and even effects to others: a semi-hollow ES-345-style guitar, a heavy pick, a lead and an off-the-shelf combo amp were his tools. So rather than obsessing over diodes and neck profiles, King listened closely to then translated and refined the ideas of the musicians he loved into a lyrical guitar style based on the overriding priority of communication.

On the guitar front, some of his inspirations were Lonnie Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charlie Christian, T-Bone Walker, Django Reinhardt and Bukka White, his cousin. But listen to him talk in interviews about his guitar style and he not only references other instrumentalists, particularly sax players, but vocalists, too. BB King thought of his guitar playing, with its bends, its spaces, its calls and responses and its emotional dynamics, as one half of a conversation. It’s the biggest lesson he left for other guitarists, and one that’s rarely taken to heart by the legions of players who he influenced.

Listening closely to his solos is, and always will be, a lesson for guitarists. Here, we’ve chosen just five tracks that show how BB King could endlessly vary his approach to suit the context of the song or the venue he was playing.

1 Three O’Clock Blues (Singin’ The Blues, 1957)

BB King’s first chart hit back in 1951 seems as good a place as any to start, for a listen to the raw materials that launched his seven-decade career – and also since none of his previous seven singles had charted and without this breakthrough record, his route to stardom may have been much harder as a result.

A ghostly blues lament, Three O’Clock Blues is refreshingly undominated by the blare of the era’s ever-present horns; instead, they reflect the insomniac subject matter by wheezing away in the distance while Ike Turner tinkles away unobtrusively on piano, leaving BB space to display the interplay of his guitar and voice to its fullest.

You can hear the influence of both T-Bone Walker and the song’s author, Lowell Fulson in King’s use of space and single-tone bends and insistent hammer-ons and slurs, respectively, plus – in the final turnaround – a hint of the jazz style that inflected BB’s early playing. BB’s Lucille at this point was an ES-125 hollowbody with a single P-90, and its full-bodied, slightly overloaded tone adds to the haunting quality of the song, which was recorded with a portable studio setup at the black YMCA in Memphis.

Singin’ The Blues, the 1957 album that collects together his early singles, reveals him to be a creative and varied guitarist, although he hadn’t yet fully developed his trademark – his uniquely rapid wrist-heavy single-finger vibrato – or expanded his vocabulary of expressive bends to anything like the heights he would reach later.

2. Chains And Things (Indianola Mississippi Seeds, 1970)

BB King could magically mould the same phrases and notes to convey completely different emotions – how he did it is a mystery, and one of the many things that elevates him above blues guitarists who focus on flashy technique over meaningful content. On Chains And Things, you can hear it in the space of a song: the diffident, mournful opening notes of his intro and vocal Q&As transforms throughout the song into a more strident and aggressive voice, until, by the song’s end, Lucille sounds every bit as frustrated as BB himself is by the injustices he references in the song’s lyrics.

The song is from Indianola Mississippi Seeds, the 1970 album he considered “the best album I have ever made artistically”. It was produced by Bill Szymcyzk, who had masterminded King’s commercial breakthrough hit The Thrill Is Gone the same year and went on to produce the likes of Hotel California and more), and he encouraged King to embrace a more creative approach in the studio and move away from the winning but now waning formula of pure blues that had become his stock in trade.    

Chains And Things has a moment that captures this newfound creative openness in full flight. The song’s second solo section begins with what BB described as a ‘mistake’: “I played the wrong note and followed it as best I could... then we got the arranger to make the strings follow it,” he said. Listen to the resulting section and what they ended up with was a menacing refrain that matches the song’s moody minor-key atmosphere to perfection. The moral of the tale? As Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies cards say, sometimes it pays to “Honor thy error as a hidden intention…”

3. Gambler’s Blues (Blues Is King, 1967)

Recorded at the International Club in Chicago in 1966, this live record showcased BB in a stripped-down band setting, with financial circumstances (a bus crash and an IRS claim) having temporarily forced him to trade the big-band entourage of the kind heard on Live At The Regal for organ, alto sax and trumpet.

Gambler’s Blues is a fine example of how King used contrasts, space and repetition to stoke the energy of his audience

But no matter – if anything, the small-club setting makes him work even harder, feeding off the interaction with the hyped-up crowd to ramp up his showmanship, take an extra dose of gravel for his extraordinary blues holler and pull out all the stops with his guitar playing. There’s lots of variety in his playing throughout the set: stinging, biting licks adorn uptempo crowdpleaser Blind Love, a gritty major-minor workout steals midtempo shuffle Tired Of Your Love, and reverb-drenched, dark-toned edge-of-feedback licks haunt the slow-blues of Night Life.

Yet for pure visceral fretboard thrills, Gambler’s Blues is a fine example of how King used contrasts, space and repetition to stoke the energy of his audience. Its first minute and a half is a pure outpouring of six-string expression, full of telling detail: he varies his dynamics through all of the tools at his disposal (altering his pickup selector, tone and volume controls, even turning his reverb off at one point), and sets the stage for the song’s vocal by dotting his phrasing with frantic string rakes, piercing high bends, varying the register and tempering the minor-key angst with touches of major-key sweetness.

4. The Thrill Is Gone (Completely Well, 1969)

BB King’s first million-selling single reached No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970, no mean feat for a blues single in any era, but extra-special at the turn of the new decade. The Thrill Is Gone broke new ground for the genre, and for BB King himself, thanks to the addition of its mournful string arrangement by Bert de Coteaux. The song was originally written by Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell in 1951, but King’s version thoroughly reworks the original, retaining its minor key but jettisoning everything else.

The idea to fuse King’s well-honed melancholy with this expansive overdubbed violin instrumentation, ornamented by Wurlitzer electric-piano lines, belonged to producer Bill Szymczyk, who also recruited session players Herbie Lovell on drums, bassist Gerry Jemmott, keys player Paul Harris and guitarist Hugh McCracken instead of King’s erstwhile road band, to record in New York’s Hit Factory studio in September 1969.

The basic track took just three takes, with no overdubs required

For the song’s guitar parts, King set up in the studio with the core band, using a Gibson ES-355 with Varitone engaged through a Fender Twin Reverb. He recorded the song live with no guitar or vocal overdubs, peeling off tense, worried notes from Lucille throughout before stretching out on the single-chord outro jam, weaving in and out of the other instruments with calm authority. 

The basic track took just three takes, with no overdubs required. When the strings were added in a separate session, the potential of the sound became apparent to King. Producer Szymczyk recalled to “When you look at the big picture, this was the track that took him off the ‘chitlin’ circuit and put him in Vegas. I think he could hear that about to happen as we recorded the strings. No wonder he was smiling so big.”

5. Worry Worry Worry (Live In Cook County Jail, 1971)

BB performed, on average, an astonishing 200-plus shows a year into his 70s, and among these were around 70 performances in prisons. He was an advocate for improving prison conditions and in 1972, co-founded FAIRR, the Foundation for the Advancement of Inmate Recreation and Rehabilitation. Following the success of Johnny Cash’s late-60s prison albums, King accepted an invitation to perform at Chicago’s Cook County Jail in 1971. 

It was one of America’s most notorious penitentiaries and King’s band played on a small stage in front of over 2,000 mostly male, mostly African-American prisoners, for whom extra security had been arranged. King and his six-piece band was recorded using a hired mobile studio and press surrounding the event was a factor that helped lead to eventual reform of the prison.

The usual tough crowd and captive audience clichés most certainly applied, then, but it’s testament to King’s character that far from shrinking into himself and racing through the hits, he approached the situation with an almost evangelical zeal. In the words of his biographer, Sebastian Danchin: “The prisoners saw King’s visit as an all-too-rare recognition of their humanity,” and King responded by using everything at his disposal to create a connection.

This is best summed up by the 10-minute rendition of slow blues Worry, Worry, Worry at the heart of the set, where the band delivers false endings, builds and fades behind King’s vocal, which switches from raw gospel-preacher hollering and sax-like falsetto to spoken-word Q&A. But before preaching, BB turns to his guitar and does what he does best – communicate through it – delivering multiple verses of vocal licks that seem to answer their own questions before entering into subtle dialogue with the horn section.

5 songs guitarists need to hear by… Eric Clapton

bb king guitar commercial


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