Riley B. King (born September 16, 1925), known by the stage name B.B. King, is an American blues guitarist and singer-songwriter acclaimed for his expressive singing and guitar playing.
In 1949, King began recording songs under contract with Los Angeles-based RPM Records. Many of King's early recordings were produced by Sam Phillips, who later founded Sun Records. Before his RPM contract, King had debuted on Bullet Records by issuing the single "Miss Martha King" (1949), which did not chart well.
Later, King toured the entire "Chitlin' circuit" and 1956 became a record-breaking year, with 342 concerts booked. The same year he founded his own record label, Blues Boys Kingdom, with headquarters at Beale Street in Memphis.
In the 1950s, B.B. King became one of the most important names in R&B music, amassing an impressive list of hits including "3 O'Clock Blues", "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," "Sneakin' Around," "Ten Long Years," "Bad Luck," "Sweet Little Angel," "On My Word of Honor," and "Please Accept My Love." In 1962, King signed to ABC-Paramount Records, which was later absorbed into MCA Records, and then his current label, Geffen Records.
King won a Grammy Award for a tune called "The Thrill Is Gone" and his version became a hit on both the pop and R&B charts. King's mainstream success continued throughout the 1970s with songs like "To Know You is to Love You" and "I Like to Live the Love."
King was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980. In 2004 he was awarded the international Polar Music Prize, given to artists "in recognition of exceptional achievements in the creation and advancement of music."
From the 1980s onward he has continued to maintain a highly visible and active career, appearing on numerous television shows and performing 300 nights a year. In 1988, King reached a new generation of fans with the single "When Love Comes to Town", a collaborative effort between King and the Irish band U2 on their “Rattle and Hum” album. In 2000, King teamed up with guitarist Eric Clapton to record “Riding With the King.”
In late October 2006, he recorded a concert album and DVD entitled “B.B. King: Live” at his B.B. King Blues Clubs in Nashville and Memphis. The four night production featured his regular B.B. King Blues Band and captured his show as he performs it nightly around the world. It was his first live performance recording in 14 years.
On July 28, 2007, King played at Eric Clapton's second Crossroads Guitar Festival with 20 other guitarists to raise money for the Crossroads Centre for addictive disorders. Performing in Chicago, he played "Paying the Cost to Be the Boss", "Rock Me Baby" and "Thrill is Gone" with Robert Cray, Jimmie Vaughan and Hubert Sumlin.
Over a period of 52 years, B.B. King has played in excess of 15,000 performances.
King was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987. As of 2010, he has won 15 Grammy Awards, of which ten have been the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album. A Grammy Hall of Fame Award was given to "The Thrill is Gone" in 1998, an award given to recordings that are at least 25 years old and that have "qualitative or historical significance.
In 1987, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, becoming one of the first artists to be honored by the museum