RIP BB King. Blues Legend Dead at 89

BB was not well. He’d been suffering from diabetes for two decades and had to bail on a concert tour because of exhaustion and dehydration. He never made it back to the stage. He died this morning at his home in Las Vegas at the age of 89.

There’s been a bitter court battle surrounding BB of late. His family had accused his manager of abusing and stealing from BB, but those charges have all been thrown out. No doubt that his death will somehow intensify at least in the short term.

There are plenty of obituaries and tributes to BB around the Net today (like here, here and here) but I want to remind everyone of two things from BB’s life.

He Used to be a Radio Guy

BB was born Riley B. King somewhere near the little town of Itta Bena, Mississippi, in 1925. By 1940, he was performing in Memphis, which got him a regular ten-minute feature on local radio stations WDIA. It wasn’t long before he was offered his own show, which became known as the Sepia Swing Club.

There Were Many Lucilles

Everyone knows that BB called his guitar Lucille. But just like there were many dogs playing Lassie, there were many Lucilles, all Gibsons and similar to the ES-355.  But why call them Lucille? The story goes that back in 1949, BB was playing a juke joint in Little Twist, Arkansas, when a fight broke out between two mention. They knocked over a kerosene fire which sent the place up in flames. BB ran out but quickly realized that he’d left his one and only guitar behind.  It was worth only $30, but that was a fortune to him.  He felt he had no choice but to run back in to rescue it–which he did.

He later found out that the two men had been fighting over a woman. Her name?  Lucille. BB decided to name all his guitars after this woman as a reminder to (a) never get into a fight over a woman; and (b) not to be dumb enough to run into a burning building.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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