Riley B. King was the single most important influence on several generations of guitar players. When you hear Mike Bloomfield, Peter Green and Eric Clapton they might as well be sitting on B.B King’s knee. If you listen to the guitar from Darling, You Know I Love You and then listen to Need Your Love So Bad with Peter Green, it’s clearly a tribute to this Blues giant.
The Blues has never been about originality or has it? Somehow even if the patterns and the licks follow the same rules, the personality, the emotion of the player, the pain and the expelling of despair sets players apart and turns them into unique individuals. In fact the Blues is not the simplest or the easiest, it’s the most challenging, the hardest. The hardest to make special, the hardest to make mean something, it’s the raw naked soul exposing heartfelt expelling of emotions with no gimmicks and no effects. The tone is in your fingers, the vibrato is shaken out of the guitar with your fingers, the melancholy is thrust, pumped from your heart into your fingers. What’s fascinating about the blues is that the guitar expresses the pain in the story in the lyrics…and that’s amazing.
B.B. King went from picking cotton to picking notes out of the guitar that took him to unprecedented fame fortune and influence and if it wasn’t for him there would be no Peter Green and I love Peter Green. He famously called his guitars Lucille and it’s usually a hollow body Gibson ES -355 but before he played a Gibson, he played a Fender (See the photo). Is it a Telecaster, a Broadcaster or an Esquire?
RIP B.B. King who died Thursday in his 90th year, condolences to friends and family. Obituary link from the New York Times below.
There’s a lot of great B.B.King You Tube vids and here’s two to start with. On the first one 17 minutes in there’s a great interview with a young smoking B.B. King. ( I mean smoking, not smokin’).
B.B. King (May 9, 1968):
BB King (Guitar); Mose Thomas (Trumpet); Lee Gatling (Tenor Saxophone); James Toney (Organ); Sonny Freeman (drums).
1. Please Love Me
2. I’ve Got a Mind to Give Up Livin ‘
3. Think I’ll Move to the Jungle
4. Darling, You Know I Love You
5. That’s Wrong, Li’l Mama
Fascinating BBC Documentary where he explains a lot about his style and influences – Sounding Out- from 1972