King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King

King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King

by Daniel de Visé
King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King

King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King

by Daniel de Visé


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The first full and authoritative biography of an American—indeed a world-wide—musical and cultural legend.

“No one worked harder than B.B. No one inspired more up-and-coming artists. No one did more to spread the gospel of the blues.”—President Barack Obama

“He is without a doubt the most important artist the blues has ever produced.”—Eric Clapton

Riley “Blues Boy” King (1925-2015) was born into deep poverty in Jim Crow Mississippi. Wrenched away from his sharecropper father, B.B. lost his mother at age ten, leaving him more or less alone. Music became his emancipation from exhausting toil in the fields. Inspired by a local minister’s guitar and by the records of Blind Lemon Jefferson and T-Bone Walker, encouraged by his cousin, the established blues man Bukka White, B.B. taught his guitar to sing in the unique solo style that, along with his relentless work ethic and humanity, became his trademark. In turn, generations of artists claimed him as inspiration, from Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton to Carlos Santana and the Edge.

King of the Blues presents the vibrant life and times of a trailblazing giant. Witness to dark prejudice and lynching in his youth, B.B. performed incessantly (some 15,000 concerts in 90 countries over nearly 60 years)—in some real way his means of escaping his past. Several of his concerts, including his landmark gig at Chicago’s Cook County Jail, endure in legend to this day. His career roller-coasted between adulation and relegation, but he always rose back up. At the same time, his story reveals the many ways record companies took advantage of artists, especially those of color.

Daniel de Visé has interviewed almost every surviving member of B.B. King’s inner circle—family, band members, retainers, managers, and more—and their voices and memories enrich and enliven the life of this Mississippi blues titan, whom his contemporary Bobby “Blue” Bland simply called “the man.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802158062
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 10/18/2022
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 1,040,754
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Daniel de Visé is the author of the critically acclaimed Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show and The Comeback: Greg LeMond, The True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France, and coauthor of I Forgot to Remember: A Memoir of Amnesia. He shared a 2001 Pulitzer Prize for his journalism and has worked at the Washington Post and Miami Herald, among other newspapers. He lives in Maryland.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 Sharecropper 5

Chapter 2 On the Run 25

Chapter 3 Indianola Mississippi Seeds 43

Chapter 4 The Blues 67

Chapter 5 Memphis 83

Chapter 6 The Blues Boy 100

Chapter 7 Lucille 120

Chapter 8 On the Road 137

Chapter 9 Big Red 160

Chapter 10 Fallow 185

Chapter 11 Regal 200

Chapter 12 Revival 218

Chapter 13 Fillmore 233

Chapter 14 Mythology 253

Chapter 15 Live and Well 275

Chapter 16 Back in the Alley 293

Chapter 17 Moscow on the Mississippi 310

Chapter 18 Homecoming 333

Chapter 19 Lovetown 350

Chapter 20 Riding with the King 375

Chapter 21 A Golden Chain 398

Epilogue 416

Lyrics Referenced 421

Discography 423

The King's Court 429

Acknowledgments 433

Notes 437

Index 473

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