In 1985, the legendary B.B. King performed live the song “How Blue Can You Get.” The performance was for Farm Aid, a fundraiser that was started by Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young to help keep farmers on the land they worked for so many years. The performance was a huge success and lots of money was raised for America’s farmers. However, another thing that happened at that concert was that a lot of folks who may not have ever followed B.B. King were introduced to his greatness. Born Riley B. King in 1925, King introduced a style that was super sophisticated and he influenced several blues electric guitarists.
He was actually born on a cotton plantation in Mississippi and actually worked at an Indianola, Mississippi cotton gin for a while after spending years as the son of sharecroppers. After his mother left his dad for another man, King was raised by his grandmother, Elnora Farr in nearby Kilmichael, Mississippi. He loved music and frequently played in church with his guitar. Like many artists of that era, his career started on local radio and in juke joints. He toured the world eventually and lived in Chicago and Memphis, Tennessee.
Origin of B.B. King’s Guitar Lucille
King famously named his guitars “Lucille.” It wasn’t a name for just one guitar as many people assumed, but rather, whichever guitar he was playing, it was named Lucille. King was known for mostly playing on black Gibson guitars, and Gibson even introduced a custom B.B. King model in 1980. Lucille got its name when King played at a Twist, Arkansas dance hall. During the performance, a fight broke out between two men and it ended up starting a fire when a burning fuel barrel fell onto the floor.
They had to evacuate the hall and when he got outside, King realized he had left his guitar in the building. He ran back into the hall to get his $30 guitar. The next day, King learned that the men were fighting over a woman named “Lucille.” Because of that, he named his guitar Lucille as a reminder to never again run into a burning building or fight over a woman.
B.B. Kind Re-Stringing Lucille During Farm Aid
In the performance below, you’ll see King nonchalantly re-stringing Lucille mid-performance. Such talent!