Birthday boy B.B. King was born Riley B. King in Mississippi, on September 16, 1925. He was raised by his grandmother, sang in the local church’s gospel choir, and owned his first guitar by the age of 12.
In 1943, King left home to work as a tractor driver and as a musician. Three years later, King followed his cousin, blues legend Bukka White (author of “Fixin’ To Die”, “Shake ‘Em On Down,” and “Po’ Boy”) to Memphis. King soon left and went back to Mississippi to practice, then headed out for West Memphis, Arkansas, in 1948.
Here, King started making a name for himself, both in clubs and on the radio. Eventually he worked as a disc jockey and singer at R&B radio station WDIA. Here King became known as “Beale Street Blues Boy,” which was eventually shortened to B.B. He went on to become one of the most popular and influential blues guitarists of all time.
In 1981, Bob Dylan wrote a song with bassist Tim Drummond called “Fur Slippers.” According to Searching For A Gem:
- (Dylan) recorded during “Shot Of Love” sessions at United Western Studios, Los Angeles, CA, 02 Apr 1981, short-listed for The Bootleg Series Vols. 1-3. Covered by B. B. King on the soundtrack of the 1999 CBS TV mini-series Shake Rattle And Roll (Uni/MCA records).
Like Bob Dylan, King became a satellite radio DJ. The Sirius XM Bluesville channel was renamed B.B. King’s Bluesville in 2008.
You can see a photograph of B.B. King and Bob Dylan at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre in Adelaide Australia, on April 19, 2011, on Facebook.
On Theme Time Radio Hour, Dylan played some of B.B. King’s records, including “Bad Luck Soul” and “Walking Dr. Bill”. Here’s what Dylan said about the latter:
- “Ya know sometimes you see a record and the title just doesn’t make sense to ya. The first time I saw this 45 I thought the name was Walking Dr. Bill; I didn’t know who Dr. Bill was. But I listened to it and I realized that B.B. King is saying that he’s a walking doctor bill, cause he’s messed up ever since his lady left him. Well now it makes perfect sense.”
Bob Dylan and B.B. King shared the same stage at the February 24, 1990, Roy Orbison tribute. Like Orbison, some of King’s early sides were produced by Sam Phillips.
During the finale, everyone gathered on stage for a version of “Only The Lonely,” including:
- Cindy Bullens, Gary Busey, Bob Dylan, Joe Ely, Chris Frantz, John Fogerty, Larry Gatlin, Emmylou Harris, Jerry Harrison, Levon Helm, John Hiatt, John Lee Hooker, Chris Isaak, Booker T, B. B. King, Al Kooper, Michael McDonald, Slim Jim Phantom, Iggy Pop, Bonnie Raitt, Lee Rocker, Brian Setzer, Ricky Skaggs, Harry Dean Stanton, Syd Straw, Don Was, David Was, Tina Weymouth, Dwight Yoakam and others, including the Byrds: Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman , with John Jorgenson and Steve Duncan.
You can watch a clip of this performance by clicking on the embedded clip at the left.
(Note: This is an updated version of an article published September 15, 2010.)
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