Born Riley King, in rural Mississippi to a sharecropping family, King worked on a cotton plantation from an early age. At the age of 12, he bought his first guitar and left the farm to play gospel and blues on a street corner in Indianola.
After serving in the U.S. Army, King headed to Memphis and became an icon of the blues genre. King earned his nick name “Blues Boy” (B.B. for short) as he rose to musical esteem in Memphis. In 1951, he earned his big break with the song, 3 O’Clock Blues, which held the number one position on the Billboard R&B chart for five weeks.
King went on to produce more than 50 albums, held 30 Grammy nominations and earned 15 awards for his work. He continued touring well into his eighties. King was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction and a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his influence on American music.
To learn more about B.B. King’s life and music, click here. Check out his autobiographies, Blues All Around Me and The B.B. King Treasures: Photos, Mementos and Music from B.B. King’s Collection (BIO KING KIN) in our catalog.