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Remembering B.B. King On His 90th Birthday

09/17/2015
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(Gibson) The great guitarist, raconteur and musical innovator B.B. King died on May 14 at age 89 - but the thrill of his music and his legacy do live on. Had King continued to reign over the world of blues, he - and the world at large - would have celebrated his 90th birthday on Wednesday, September 16.

King was simply the most influential electric guitarist. With various iterations of his femme fatale six-string Lucille slung over this shoulder, he was a stinging stylist with unmistakable vibrato and tone who had a profound impact on a plurality of players, including fellow Gibson legends Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, George Harrison, Joe Perry and Joe Bonamassa. His ringing vibrato, elegant tone and singing single-note melodies, and his soulful voice, helped King become a beacon for the best qualities of the blues - it's beauty, depth of feeling, storytelling, originality, character and musical excellence and evolution.

In addition to the indelible memories left by his performances, King gave us all the gift of roughly 75 authorized studio and live albums and compilations in a discography that spans from 1949 to 2012.

In recent decades King's albums have been starry affairs like the platinum-selling, Grammy winning collaboration with Eric ClaptonRiding With the King, 2005's birthday blues party with Billy Gibbons, Clapton, Bobby Bland, John Mayer, Roger Daltrey and Gloria Estefan called B.B King and Friends: 80, and the deeply rooted One Kind Favor, made with celebrity producer T-Bone Burnett.

Most listeners associate King with his 1970 break-though hit "The Thrill Is Gone," but King actually developed most of his repertoire, vocal phrasing and licks in the first 15 years of his career.

Take a look at 10 early King recordings that are signposts of those formative years here.

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