On May 15, 2015, the world woke to news of the loss of one of its most remarkable performers. B.B. King – the King of the Blues – passed away at the age of 89.
His story began in Itta Bena, Mississippi on Sept. 16, 1925. Born Riley B. King, his talent and trademark ebony Gibson guitar “Lucille,” would carry him from that small cotton plantation into the lives of a great many individuals in the 20th century. King told Time Magazine in 1969, “I’m me, blues is what I do best. If Frank Sinatra can be the best in his field, Nat King Cole in his, Bach and Beethoven in theirs, why can’t I be great, and known for it, in blues?”
“Blues Boy” King found much success in the R&B genre, accented by his 1970 crossover hit “The Thrill is Gone.”
It seems like another time that Austinites could find the King and Lucille holding court at local clubs in the 512, most notably, the legendary Antone’s nightclub. Austin first welcomed B.B. to the Erwin Center stage on February 10, 1994, with fellow blues man Bobby “Blue” Bland opening the show.
His next appearance would be later that year, headlining the Blues Music Festival alongside A Tribute to Muddy Waters featuring an impressive list of performers, including influential blues pianist Pinetop Perkins.
The Blues Music Festival would return in 1995, but that inaugural show seemed much sweeter, like Mr. King, since the show date just happened to coincide with the legend’s birthday. The Erwin Center’s Executive Senior Associate Athletics Director, John Graham, and Senior Associate Director, Jimmy Earl, presented him with a birthday cake to celebrate the occasion.
A legend lost, a pioneer of his time and genre, his legacy remains for future generations and in the annals of Austin’s rich musical history.
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