The great blues guitarist and singer B.B. King died Thursday night in Las Vegas at age 89, the AP and CNN reported. Born Riley B. King in Mississippi, he became known as “the Beale Street Blues Boy” while working as a performer and disc jockey after moving to Memphis in the late 1940s; the nickname was later shortened to “B.B.” His first hit was “Three O’Clock Blues”:
King’s most well-known song, though, was “The Thrill Is Gone,” highlighted by his powerfully projected vocals and signature guitar sound, which alternated between piercingly clean single notes, shimmering vibrato, and the kind of half- and quarter-tone bending, dirty mischeviousness that literally helped define what we think of as the blues.
A major influence on rock ’n’ roll—he headlined San Francisco’s legendary Fillmore West in 1968 and toured with the Rolling Stones in 1969—King was known for his unstoppable work ethic. In 1956, the AP says, he played 342 shows.