Iconic guitar great B.B. King has died at the age of 89. The man known as the King of the Blues died peacefully in his sleep at his Las Vegas home according to his attorney Brent Bryson.
Born on a cotton plantation in Mississippi, Riley B. King toiled in the fields as a teenager before eventually landing a job as a disc jockey in Memphis. He began his recording career in 1949, working with Sun Studios head Sam Phillips. Initially dubbing himself Blues Boy King, the singer-guitarist would land at the top of the Billboard R&B charts in 1952 with the song “3 O’Clock Blues”.
From that point one, King was known as one of the giants of rhythm and blues, influencing legends from Eric Clapton to ZZ Top. He would rub shoulders with everyone from U2 to Barack Obama to Pope John Paul II. King was famous for playing Gibson ES-355 guitars that he dubbed Lucille. Trivia fans know that the name Lucille dates back to an Arkansas gig in 1949, where two men set a dance hall on fire after starting a fight while King was playing. With the building on fire, the future blues great ran back inside to rescue his guitar. Later, he learned that the men had been fighting over a woman named Lucille.
A touring machine who was playing over 300 gigs a year up until his 80s, King continued to hit the road right up until the end. The 15-time Grammy winner collapsed during a show in Chicago last October. He was in hospice care in his Las Vegas home at the time of his death.