Mississippi Mourns Loss of B.B. King, the “King of the Blues”

by LP Green, II

B.B. King, legendary Mississippi blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, died Thursday, May 14, at age 89.

“Mississippi is known the world over as the birthplace of America’s music, and B.B. King is one of its founding legends and one of our state’s most treasured gifts to the music world,” said Governor Phil Bryant. “For decades, our souls have been stirred by his talents. From juke joints to concert halls, there is no place his influence hasn’t reached. Deborah and I are saddened by B.B.’s passing. Mississippi has lost a legend. He is the king. The thrill is gone.”

King, born Riley B. King on Sept. 16, 1925, grew up in the town of Berclair, near Itta Bena at County Roads 513 and 305. His parents, Albert and Nora Ella King, were sharecroppers who lived in a simple home southeast of Berclair along Bear Creek. After his parents separated when he was four, King lived in Kilmicael and Lexington before moving as a teen to Indianola, which he referred to as his hometown. It was on an Indianola street corner, when King was 17, that locals first heard the musician destined to become the “King of the Blues”. Markers dedicated to King can be found in Berclair, Kilmichael, Greenwood and Indianola, and he is mentioned in more than 20 markers along the Mississippi Blues Trail. A museum dedicated to the musician is also located in Indianola.

“B.B. King was a friend and mentor to many of the world’s foremost musicians and an American icon for music fans around the world,” stated the B.B. King Museum in a release. “While the Museum is a place that houses memorabilia and tells Mr. King’s life story, it is also a place of great memories shared with him. He was always gracious to accommodate any request we had, and we witnessed time after time his willingness to spend time with fans, especially children. Much is being said about his musical ability and the inspiration he was to guitarists everywhere. While we certainly echo those sentiments, we’re going to miss B.B. the man-who never had a harsh word and who loved his fans as much as they adored him.”

In the 1940s, King moved to Memphis, working at a local radio station. It was here he was given the nickname B.B., which stood for “Blues Boy”.

King’s first No. 1 hit, “Three O’Clock Blues”, was followed by many more hit albums, national music tours, GRAMMY awards, television appearances, hall of fame inductions, and a following that launched his role as a music icon.

“It is rare to see the words icon, living legend and ambassador used in concert, but when Mississippi speaks about B. B. King, he was indeed our greatest asset and our most beloved and eloquent spokesman,” said Malcolm White, Director for Visit Mississippi, the state’s tourism office. “Mr. King embodies the Mississippi Story and was the quintessential American hero. He meant everything to us and leaves us better because he understood and loved us unconditionally — and we loved him back”.

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