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B.B. King

1925

Riley B. King (a.k.a. B.B. King) is born in Itta Bena, Mississippi.

1946

B.B. King moves to Memphis, taking a job at a factory where his cousin, bluesman Bukka White, works.

1948

B.B. King performs on Sonny Boy Williamson’s show on radio station KWEM, which leads to a steady gig at Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis.

1949

B.B. King records for the first time, cutting four songs (including his debut single, “Miss Martha King”) at Memphis radio station WDIA, where he works as a performer and deejay.

1950

On a trip to Memphis, West Coast record man Jules Bihari signs B.B. King, who will record prolifically for the Bihari brothers’ RPM, Kent and Crown labels over the next decade.

1951

B.B. King’s first hit, a version of Lowell Fulsom’s “Three O’Clock Blues,” enters the R&B chart, which it will top for five weeks.

1954

“You Upset me Baby,” by B.B. King, enters the R&B chart. It will be his fourth and final single to reach Number One.

1961

B.B. King signs with ABC-Paramount Records, for which he’ll begin recording after fulfilling contractual obligations to the Bihari brothers’ RPM, Kent and Crown labels.

1964

B.B. King’s self-penned “Rock Me Baby” enters the Top Forty, where it will peak at #34.

1964

B.B. King records a performance at a nightclub on Chicago’s Southside, yielding the classic blues album Live at the Regal.

1967

B.B. King performs at the Montreux Jazz Festival, the Newport Folk Festival and San Francisco’s Fillmore West, exposing the rising blues legend to jazz, folk and rock audiences.

1968

“Paying the Cost to Be the Boss,” one of B.B. King’s signature songs, enters the R&B chart, where it will reach #10.

1969

B.B. King opens the first of eighteen dates for the Rolling Stones on the British group’s sixth U.S. tour.

1970

“The Thrill Is Gone,” by B.B. King, enters the singles chart, where it will peak at #3 R&B and #15 pop. It will earn King a Grammy for Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal Performance, Male

1970

B.B. King begins recording Indianola Mississippi Seeds, an album that finds him backed by rock musicians, furthering his crossover appeal.

1970

B.B. King plays for prisoners at Chicago’s Cook County Jail. The show is released in 1971 as Live in Cook County Jail.

1973

“I Like to Live the Love,” B.B. King’s last Top Ten R&B hit, enters the singles charts, where it will peak at #10 R&B and #28 pop.

1974

Together for the First Time…Live, the first of two live albums uniting B.B. King with Bobby Blue Bland, is released. It will become the first gold album for both artists.

1976

B.B. King and Bobby Blue Bland’s collaboration on the New Orleans standard “Let the Good Times Roll” enters the R&B chart, where it will peak at #20.

1977

B.B. King is awarded an honorary doctorate in music from Yale University. He will receive a similar honor from Boston’s Berklee School of music in 1982.

1977

B.B. King releases Deuces Wild, an album of collaborations with the Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison, Dr. John and Willie Nelson. It will become King’s second gold album.

1979

B.B. King tours Russia, performing twenty-seven concerts in thirty cities, furthering his reputation as America’s “Ambassador of the Blues.”

1980

B.B. King is inducted into the first class of the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.

1983

B.B. King releases Blues ‘n’ Jazz, a back-to-basics album that will win a Grammy for Best Blues Recording.

1985

B.B. King turns sixty, marking the event with the release of his fiftieth album, Six Silver Strings.

1987

B.B. King is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the second annual induction dinner. Sting is his presenter.

1987

B.B. King A Night of Red Hot Blues is taped for broadcast on HBO at Ebony Showcase Theater in Los Angeles. King is joined by Phil Collins, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King, Paul Butterfield, Dr. John, Eric Clapton, Etta James and more.

1988

B.B. King receives the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences at the 30th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.

1989

“When Love Comes to Town,” by U2 and B.B. King, wins Best Video from Film at the MTV Video Awards. Written for King by U2’s Bono, it appeared on the Irish group’s feature film and double album Rattle & Hum.

1990

B.B. King releases Live at San Quentin, his fifth live album and second cut at a correctional facility. King has performed sixty prison concerts in his career and is cofounder of the Foundation for the Advancement of Inmate Recreation and Rehabilitation (FAIRR).

1991

B.B. King receives the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts.

1991

B.B. King’s Memphis Blues Club opens in the city where the blues legend launched his career. King will open another club in Los Angeles in 1994.

1992

B.B. King’s Live at the Apollo, a big-band album released the previous year, wins a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Recording.

1992

King of the Blues, a four-disc box set documenting B.B. King’s career, is released on MCA Records.

1994

B.B. King’s Blues Summit - which finds him joined by John Lee Hooker, Etta James, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins and more - wins a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Recording.

1995

In the same year he turned seventy, B.B. King is honored at the 18th annual Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C.

1998

The U.S. government designates B.B. King its “Ambassador of Music,” under which title he’ll represent America at the World Expo in Lisbon, Portugal.

2000

B.B. King and Eric Clapton’s collaborative Riding With the King (coproduced by Clapton) is released. It will become King’s first platinum album.

2003

B.B. King releases Reflections, a genre-bridging album of pop, country, jazz and blues standards, including three Louis Armstrong chestnuts.

2005

The state of Mississippi celebrates “B.B. King Day." A decree of the State House and Senate reads: “No matter where he appears in the world, B.B. King is a proud ambassador of his home state, and Mississippi is even prouder of this native son.”