Green is certainly not the first color that comes to mind when you think about the blues. But you wouldn’t be so crazy if you did. See, the Irish were, for a long time, an oppressed people. And out of that oppression came a culture both steeped in sorrow and buoyant with humor. A deeply spiritual culture. B.B. King knows that. S’why he reached out to an Irish songwriter in the audience one night…
It had been rumored that U2 may drop by that night, and sure enough they did. So sitting in the dressing room as we’re sitting here, and we talked, and we talked, but I had heard Joshua Tree, I’d heard it, and the songs I thought was terrific. So that night, knowing that Bono was a writer, I said to him, I said Bono, sometime would you write a song for me? He said yes. Eight or nine months later, my manager, Sid Seidenberg called and said, B, Bono called me and said he has a song for you. I said WHAT? He said, yes, and their coming to the US and they’d like for you to come over and listen to the song, and if you care to open the show. I said YEAH, I’D LOVE THAT! So I went over then and sure enough, Bono had wrote this song ‘When Love Comes To Town’ and man to be such a young man and the words he had was so, I could… heavy. I can tell you this, they were good to me, they were so good to me. They are people that are concerned, very concerned about humanity and human race. If God had sent Angels to earth to look after us, U2 happen to be angels.
Riley B. King, also known as B.B. King, was born on a plantation outside of Berclair, Mississippi on September 16, 1925. He got his first guitar at age 12—some say he bought it himself, though legend has it that it was given to him by slide-guitar master Bukka White, his mother’s first cousin. In ’46, King followed Bukka White to Memphis. He travelled some after that, ultimately landing in West Memphis, Arkansas where he developed an audience on Sonny Boy Williamson’s radio show. It was actually in radio that Riley got the name B.B.—his DJ name, which stood for Blues Boy.
He cut his first records in 1949, and before long B.B. was one of the biggest names in R&B, as well as one of the busiest. In 1956, King performed 342 shows.
King won a Grammy in 1970 for his song the Thrill is Gone, which comes in at 183 on Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest songs of all time. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980, and the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. His hometown of Indianola, Mississippi boasts an incredible museum dedicated to his life and place in Blues history—the B.B. King Museum. Despite embarking on a farewell tour in 2006, B.B. has toured ever since. Some estimate that he’s delivered over 15,000 performances in his 64 years in the business.
In addition to being possibly the greatest living blues guitarist, B.B. is an entrepreneur with eight nightclubs to his name, a licensed pilot, a spokesman for living with Type II diabetes, and a Frank Sinatra superfan.