"You have a soul, you have a heart, you have a feeling and your music is life. Life as we've lived it in the past, life as we're living it today and life as I believe we'll live tomorrow."
The undisputed monarch of the blues guitar, B.B. King was born on a cotton plantation in the Mississippi Delta. As a child he learned the rudiments of his instrument from his preacher and was soon performing blues and gospel songs on street corners. In 1947 he hitchhiked to Memphis, Tennessee with $2.50 in his pocket to pursue a professional music career. Within a year he was singing on the radio and in local night clubs.
In 1951 he recorded his first big hit, "Three O'Clock Blues," and began touring the country, taking his music from rural juke joints and road houses to concert halls and amphitheaters around the world. His original compositions fused elements of jazz, pop and gospel music with the classic blues. In 1970, he recorded the song that became his calling card, "The Thrill is Gone." He released over 50 albums to date and received 18 Grammy Awards.
Generations of rock and blues players have imitated his fluid guitar lines, with their weeping bends and stinging vibrato. Over the years he recorded with many of these admirers, including U2 and Eric Clapton. His contributions to his country's cultural life were recognized with the Kennedy Center Honors and the Presidential Medal of the Arts. Well into the sixth decade of his career, B.B. King still performed hudreds of times a year, roaming the globe as America's Ambassador of the Blues.