Universally hailed as the reigning king of the blues, the legendary B.B. King is without a doubt the single most important electric guitarist of the last half century. His bent notes and staccato picking style have influenced legions of contemporary bluesmen, while his gritty and confident voice -- capable of wringing every nuance from any lyric -- provides a worthy match for his passionate playing. Between 1951 and 1985, King notched an impressive 74 entries on Billboard's R&B charts, and he was one of the few full-fledged blues artists to score a major pop hit when his 1970 smash "The Thrill Is Gone" crossed over to mainstream success (engendering memorable appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and American Bandstand). Since that time, he has partnered with such musicians as Eric Clapton and U2 while managing his own acclaimed solo career, all the while maintaining his immediately recognizable style on the electric guitar.... N'joy
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The seeds of Riley B. King's enduring talent were sown deep in the blues-rich Mississippi Delta, where he was born in 1925 near the town of Itta Bena. He was shuttled between his mother's home and his grandmother's residence as a child, his father having left the family when King was very young. The youth put in long days working as a sharecropper and devoutly sang the Lord's praises at church before moving to Indianola -- another town located in the heart of the Delta -- in 1943.
Country and gospel music left an indelible impression on King's musical mindset as he matured, along with the styles of blues greats (T-Bone Walker and Lonnie Johnson) and jazz geniuses (Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt). In 1946, he set off for Memphis to look up his cousin, a rough-edged country blues guitarist named Bukka White. For ten invaluable months, White taught his eager young relative the finer points of playing blues guitar. After returning briefly to Indianola and the sharecropper's eternal struggle with his wife Martha, King returned to Memphis in late 1948. This time, he stuck around for a while.
King was soon broadcasting his music live via Memphis radio station WDIA, a frequency that had only recently switched to a pioneering all-black format. Local club owners preferred that their attractions also held down radio gigs so they could plug their nightly appearances on the air. When WDIA DJ Maurice "Hot Rod" Hulbert exited his air shift, King took over his record-spinning duties. At first tagged "The Peptikon Boy" (an alcohol-loaded elixir that rivaled Hadacol) when WDIA put him on the air, King's on-air handle became "The Beale Street Blues Boy," later shortened to Blues Boy and then a far snappier B.B.
King had a four-star breakthrough year in 1949. He cut his first four tracks for Jim Bulleit's Bullet Records (including a number entitled "Miss Martha King" after his wife), then signed a contract with the Bihari Brothers' Los Angeles-based RPM Records. King cut a plethora of sides in Memphis over the next couple of years for RPM, many of them produced by a relative newcomer named Sam Phillips (whose Sun Records was still a distant dream at that point in time). Phillips was independently producing sides for both the Biharis and Chess; his stable also included Howlin' Wolf, Rosco Gordon, and fellow WDIA personality Rufus Thomas.
The Biharis also recorded some of King's early output themselves, erecting portable recording equipment wherever they could locate a suitable facility. King's first national R&B chart-topper in 1951, "Three O'Clock Blues" (previously waxed by Lowell Fulson), was cut at a Memphis YMCA. King's Memphis running partners included vocalist Bobby Bland, drummer Earl Forest, and ballad-singing pianist Johnny Ace. When King hit the road to promote "Three O'Clock Blues," he handed the group, known as the Beale Streeters, over to Ace.
It was during this era that King first named his beloved guitar "Lucille." Seems that while he was playing a joint in a little Arkansas town called Twist, fisticuffs broke out between two jealous suitors over a lady. The brawlers knocked over a kerosene-filled garbage pail that was heating the place, setting the room ablaze. In the frantic scramble to escape the flames, King left his guitar inside. He foolishly ran back in to retrieve it, dodging the flames and almost losing his life. When the smoke had cleared, King learned that the lady who had inspired such violent passion was named Lucille. Plenty of Lucilles have passed through his hands since; Gibson has even marketed a B.B.-approved guitar model under the name.
The 1950s saw King establish himself as a perennially formidable hitmaking force in the R&B field. Recording mostly in L.A. (the WDIA air shift became impossible to maintain by 1953 due to King's endless touring) for RPM and its successor Kent, King scored 20 chart items during that musically tumultuous decade, including such memorable efforts as "You Know I Love You" (1952); "Woke Up This Morning" and "Please Love Me" (1953); "When My Heart Beats like a Hammer," "Whole Lotta' Love," and "You Upset Me Baby" (1954); "Every Day I Have the Blues" (another Fulson remake), the dreamy blues ballad "Sneakin' Around," and "Ten Long Years" (1955); "Bad Luck," "Sweet Little Angel," and a Platters-like "On My Word of Honor" (1956); and "Please Accept My Love" (first cut by Jimmy Wilson) in 1958. King's guitar attack grew more aggressive and pointed as the decade progressed, influencing a legion of up-and-coming axemen across the nation.
In 1960, King's impassioned two-sided revival of Joe Turner's "Sweet Sixteen" became another mammoth seller, and his "Got a Right to Love My Baby" and "Partin' Time" weren't far behind. But Kent couldn't hang onto a star like King forever (and he may have been tired of watching his new LPs consigned directly into the 99-cent bins on the Biharis' cheapo Crown logo). King moved over to ABC-Paramount Records in 1962, following the lead of Lloyd Price, Ray Charles, and before long, Fats Domino.
In November of 1964, the guitarist cut his seminal Live at the Regal album at the fabled Chicago theater and excitement virtually leaped out of the grooves. That same year, he enjoyed a minor hit with "How Blue Can You Get," one of his many signature tunes. "Don't Answer the Door" in 1966 and "Paying the Cost to Be the Boss" two years later were Top Ten R&B entries, and the socially charged and funk-tinged "Why I Sing the Blues" just missed achieving the same status in 1969.
Across-the-board stardom finally arrived in 1969 for the deserving guitarist, when he crashed the mainstream consciousness in a big way with a stately, violin-drenched minor-key treatment of Roy Hawkins' "The Thrill Is Gone" that was quite a departure from the concise horn-powered backing King had customarily employed. At last, pop audiences were convinced that they should get to know King better: not only was the track a number-three R&B smash, it vaulted to the upper reaches of the pop lists as well.
King was one of a precious few bluesmen to score hits consistently during the 1970s, and for good reason: he wasn't afraid to experiment with the idiom. In 1973, he ventured to Philadelphia to record a pair of huge sellers, "To Know You Is to Love You" and "I Like to Live the Love," with the same silky rhythm section that powered the hits of the Spinners and the O'Jays. In 1976, he teamed up with his old cohort Bland to wax some well-received duets. And in 1978, he joined forces with the jazzy Crusaders to make the gloriously funky "Never Make Your Move Too Soon" and an inspiring "When It All Comes Down." Occasionally, the daring deviations veered off-course; Love Me Tender, an album that attempted to harness the Nashville country sound, was an artistic disaster.
Although his concerts were consistently as satisfying as anyone in the field (King asserted himself as a road warrior of remarkable resiliency who gigged an average of 300 nights a year), King tempered his studio activities somewhat. Nevertheless, his 1993 MCA disc Blues Summit was a return to form, as King duetted with his peers (John Lee Hooker, Etta James, Fulson, Koko Taylor) on a program of standards. Other notable releases from that period include 1999's Let the Good Times Roll: The Music of Louis Jordan and 2000's Riding with the King, a collaboration with Eric Clapton. King celebrated his 80th birthday in 2005 with the star-studded album 80, which featured guest spots from such varied artists as Gloria Estefan, John Mayer, and Van Morrison. Live was issued in 2008; that same year, King released an engaging return to pure blues, One Kind Favor, which eschewed the slick sounds of his 21st century work for a stripped-back approach. A long overdue career-spanning box set of King's over 60 years of touring, recording, and performing, Ladies and Gentlemen...Mr. B.B. King, appeared in 2012. On May 26, 2013, King appeared at the New Orleans Jazz Festival.
King was married twice, to Martha Lee Denton, 1946 to 1952, and to Sue Carol Hall, 1958 to 1966. The failure of both marriages has been attributed to the heavy demands made on the marriage by King's 250 performances a year. It is reported that he has fathered 15 children and, as of 2004, had 50 grandchildren. He lived with Type II diabetes for over 20 years and was a high-profile spokesperson in the fight against the disease, appearing in advertisements for diabetes-management products.
On October 3, 2014, not feeling well enough, King had to stop his live performance at the House of Blues in Chicago, Illinois. A doctor diagnosed King with dehydration and exhaustion, and the eight remaining shows of his ongoing tour had to be cancelled. After the cancellation, King announced on October 8, 2014, he was back at home to recuperate. On May 1, 2015, after two hospitalizations caused by complications from high blood pressure and diabetes, King announced on his website that he was in hospice care at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he died on May 14, 2015. His cause of death is a series of small strokes.
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B.B. King is not only a timeless singer and guitarist, he's also a natural-born entertainer, and on Live at the Regal the listener is treated to an exhibition of all three of his talents. Over percolating horn hits and rolling shuffles, King treats an enthusiastic audience (at some points, they shriek after he delivers each line) to a collection of some of his greatest hits. The backing band is razor-sharp, picking up the leader's cues with almost telepathic accuracy. King's voice is rarely in this fine of form, shifting effortlessly between his falsetto and his regular range, hitting the microphone hard for gritty emphasis and backing off in moments of almost intimate tenderness. Nowhere is this more evident than at the climax of "How Blue Can You Get," where the Chicago venue threatens to explode at King's prompting. Of course, the master's guitar is all over this record, and his playing here is among the best in his long career. Displaying a jazz sensibility, King's lines are sophisticated without losing their grit. More than anything else, Live at the Regal is a textbook example of how to set up a live performance. Talking to the crowd, setting up the tunes with a vignette, King is the consummate entertainer. Live at the Regal is an absolutely necessary acquisition for fans of B.B. King or blues music in general. A high point, perhaps even the high point, for uptown blues.
B. B. King - Live At The Regal (flac 225mb)
01 Every Day I Have The Blues 2:27
02 Sweet Little Girl 4:15
03 It's My Own Fault 3:25
04 How Blue Can You Get 3:00
05 Please Love Me 2:55
06 You Upset Me Baby 2:20
07 Worry, Worry 6:21
08 Woke Up This Mornin' 1:42
09 You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now 4:10
10 Help The Poor 2:35
B. B. King - Live At The Regal (ogg 88mb)
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Completely Well was B.B. King's breakthrough album in 1969, which finally got him the long-deserved acclaim that was no less than his due. It contained his signature number, "The Thrill Is Gone," and eight other tunes, six of them emanating from King's pen, usually in a co-writing situation. Hardliners point to the horn charts and the overdubbed strings as the beginning of the end of King's old style that so identifiably earmarked his early sides for the Bihari Brothers and his later tracks for ABC, but this is truly the album that made the world sit up and take notice of B.B. King. The plus points include loose arrangements and a small combo behind him that never dwarfs the proceedings or gets in the way. King, for his part, sounds like he's having a ball, playing and singing at peak power. This is certainly not the place to start your B.B. King collection, but it's a nice stop along the way before you finish it.
B.B. King - Completely Well (flac 316mb)
01 So Excited 5:34
02 No Good 4:35
03 You're Losin' Me 4:54
04 What Happened 4:41
05 Confessin' The Blues 4:56
06 Key To My Kingdom 3:18
07 Cryin' Won't Help You Now 6:30
08 You're Mean 9:39
09 The Thrill Is Gone 5:30
B.B. King - Completely Well (ogg 117mb)
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B.B. King has cut a lot of albums since the success of Live at the Regal. And, like the live shows they document, none of them are any less than solid and professional, hallmarks of King's work aesthetic. But every so often B.B. truly catches fire; his playing and singing comes up an extra notch or two, and the result is a live album with some real sparks to it. Live in Cook County Jail is one of those great concerts that the record company was smart enough to be there to capture, documenting B.B. firing on all cylinders in front of an audience that's just damn happy for him to be there. Possibly the best live version of "The Thrill Is Gone" of all its many incarnations, and rock solid renditions of classics like "Everyday I Have the Blues," "How Blue Can You Get?," "Sweet Sixteen" and a great medley of "3 O'Clock Blues" and "Darlin' You Know I Love You." Live at the Regal is still the champ of King's live output, but many say this runs a close second, and they just may be right.
B.B. King - Live In Cook County Jail (flac 229mb)
01 Introduction 1:50
02 Everyday I Have The Blues 1:43
03 How Blues Can You Get 5:09
04 Worry, Worry, Worry 9:57
05 3 O' Clock Blues / Darlin' You Know I Love You 6:15
06 Sweet Sixteen 4:20
07 The Thrill Is Gone 5:31
08 Please Accept My Love 4:02
B.B. King - Live In Cook County Jail (ogg 96mb)
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It's been so long since B.B. King stepped outside of his comfort zone that One Kind Favor comes as a bit of a shock. Unlike so many albums he's cut in the wake of the crossover success of The Thrill Is Gone way back in 1970, the sound is stripped-back, not splashy, there is not a reliance on guest stars, and the repertoire is pure blues -- and these are all songs that he's never recorded before, including three tunes by his longtime idol Lonnie Johnson. Credit for the concept must be given to producer T Bone Burnett, who applies a similar neo-rootsy aesthetic to One Kind Favor that he did to his production of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' Raising Sand -- an approach that's grounded in tradition but has a smoky, smeary veneer that's thoroughly modern. One Kind Favor has a noir-ish flair but it doesn't dwell on darkness, even if it takes its title from a line in Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean," a song that would seem to carry some import for the 82-year-old King. He may be approaching his twilight years but brooding has never been B.B.'s style -- he's too generous, too open-hearted in both love and loss, so he's naturally disinclined to turn this album into a meditation on morality. Instead, One Kind Favor is a celebration of life with all of its ups and downs, filled with heartbreak but also great joy, which is precisely what B.B. King's best music always has been. And this is indeed one of King's best latter-day albums, thanks to its sterling selection of 12 songs and the supple support of drummer Jim Keltner, pianist Dr. John, and bassist Nathan East, who give B.B. plenty of room for both his guitar and voice. Even if King winds up returning to his familiar slick, star-studded sound somewhere down the line, having an album as earthily elegant as One Kind Favor in his canon provides a fitting coda for one of the great musical careers of the 20th century.
B.B. King - One Kind Favor (flac 333mb)
01 See That My Grave Is Kept Clean 4:49
02 I Get So Weary 4:17
03 Get The Blues Off Me 4:30
04 How Many More Years 3:10
05 Waiting For Your Call 6:02
06 My Love Is Down 5:25
07 The World Gone Wrong 4:24
08 Blues Before Sunrise 4:21
09 Midnight Blues 3:49
10 Backwater Blues 7:36
11 Sitting On Top Of The World 3:41
12 Tomorrow Night 5:00
B.B. King - One Kind Favor (ogg 122mb)
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