King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King (Hardcover)

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King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King By Daniel de Vise Cover Image

Staff Reviews

A no brainer for any music fan, whether you’re a seasoned BB King listener or someone who has never heard him play a single lick. Even if you don’t know the Blues from the reds or the pinks, this book is essential reading to understand the origins of a prototypically American art form. Although Riley “BB” King was not one of the earliest blues masters, his story runs through an incredibly important time period in American history, particularly African American History. King’s life began during the post slavery sharecropping time period, his career began during the segregated chitlin’ circuit years and moved through the explosion of rock and other forms of popular music and the ascendance of many fabulous Black musical artists. I defy you to read this book and not get sucked into listening to the fabulous music of BB King as well as wanting to dive head first into listening to so many of the other remarkable artists that made BB King’s professional life possible. Overall a great introduction to the Blues via the life of one of the masters as well as a fascinating side trip through a transformative social and cultural portion of the 20th Century. -- Gene

— From The Loyalty 100: NONFICTION


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 Vis 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: 9780802158055
ISBN-10: 0802158056
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: October 5th, 2021
Pages: 496
Language: English