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B.B.King 2004, King of the Blues

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King of the Blues

The undisputed monarch of the blues guitar, B.B. King was born on a cotton plantation in the Mississippi Delta. As a child he learned the rudiments of his instrument from his preacher and was soon performing blues and gospel songs on street corners. In 1947 he hitchhiked to Memphis, Tennessee with $2.50 in his pocket to pursue a professional music career. Within a year he was singing on the radio and in local night clubs. In 1951 he recorded his first big hit, "Three O'Clock Blues," and began touring the country, taking his music from rural juke joints and road houses to concert halls and amphitheaters around the world. His original compositions fused elements of jazz, pop and gospel music with the classic blues. In 1970, he recorded the song that has become his calling card, "The Thrill is Gone." He has released over 50 albums to date and has received 18 Grammy Awards. Generations of rock and blues players have imitated his fluid guitar lines, with their weeping bends and stinging vibrato. Over the years he has recorded with many of these admirers, including U2 and Eric Clapton. His contributions to his country's cultural life have been recognized with the Kennedy Center Honors and the Presidential Medal of the Arts. Now in the sixth decade of his career, B.B, King still performs hundreds of times a year, roaming the globe as America's Ambassador of the Blues. This performance was recorded at the House of Blues during the 2004 International Achievement Summit in Chicago. The podcast includes excerpts from BB. King's exclusive interview with the Academy of Achievement, recorded during the Summit.

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