has been such a constant and comforting presence in the world of music that it's probably lost on a good deal of blues lovers just how revolutionary his stinging left hand tremolo and sharp bends were when he hit it big in the late '50s with records like "Rock Me Baby" and "Sweet Sixteen." When he signed to ABC Records in the '60s, "The Thrill Is Gone" made him the first blues artist to reach the Top 20.
Guitarists to the left and right of B.B.'s style--and that includes Eric Clapton, Otis Rush, Jeff Beck, Carlos Santana, Gary Clark, Jr, Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Son Seals, Robert Cray, and probably about 50 others--all acknowledge that B.B. is the man who showed them what an electric guitar could do.
And though he swears he doesn't play rhythm, Austin residents tell of a famous good natured three-guitar pull between Stevie Ray and Jimmy Vaughn at the Continental Club where B.B. backed the brothers up playing killer rhythm, patiently watching the two duel it out, until finally B.B. called an end to the fracas with a sky splitting bend that brought the house down and left the brothers laughing like two school kids whose Dad just reminded them who was boss.
For the uninitiated, catch B.B. King Live at the Regal
or Live at Cook County Jail
and prepare to be schooled. Shout Factory is releasing a new DVD, B.B. King Live at Royal Albert Hall 2011,
in a couple of weeks and as you can see from this clip, at 86, the man still knows how to put it across. Epiphone's Lucille
will get you where you need to go and B.B. stands by it all the way. He did, after all, design it. Long live the King.