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The Life of Memphis Musician B.B. King

Jun 6, 2008
B.B. King is an American blues guitarist and was born Riley B. King on September 16, 1925. His name is the most recognizable in the blues genre and he is arguably one of the most respected and admired blues guitarists of all time. He began his career as a Memphis musician in Tennessee in 1946.

B.B. King only worked as a Memphis musician for a few months and after struggling to make it he returned to Mississippi. King decided that it would be easier to go back to Mississippi and spend a few years getting prepared for the scene as a Memphis musician because he had learned quickly that it was much different then what he was used to. It did not take too long for him though because he ended up returning to Memphis only two years later. His very first job as a working Memphis musician was at the R&B local radio station WDIA as a singer. By 1949, he had begun to record songs for the RPM Records label that was based out of Los Angeles. B.B. King recorded most of his early songs with producer Sam Phillips who later became the founder of Sun Records. As a Memphis musician, King had a myriad of jobs in the area and one of them was working as a disc jockey which is where he got his nickname Beale Street Blues Boy. This nickname was later shortened to B.B. and is still what he goes by today.

Throughout the 1950s, B.B. King became on of the most important names in all of R&B music with hits like 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, Bad Luck, Ten Long Years and Sweet Little Angel. By 1962, King was very popular and landed a music contract with ABC Paramount Records which later became part of MCA Records. Now, he works on his current label, Geffen Records, which is what became of MCA Records.

B.B. King has a lot of success outside of the blues market as well, but it was definitely his time working as a Memphis musician that claimed him his fame. This popularity was what allowed King to go into the mainstream parts of the music scene in the 1980s all the way through to today.
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