Gibson Artist Focus: B.B. King
Ron Blanco on May 27, 2011
B.B. King is rightly revered, not only as one of greatest blues artists ever to have lived but as one of the most important guitarists of all time. With a style and sound that has influenced generations of musicians around the globe, King is known for his deeply expressive and passionate vocal delivery, his technical ability as a musician and his ability to wring out every last shred of emotion from his famous guitar Lucille.
Born Riley B. King in 1925, the legendary American Blues artist B.B. King has enjoyed a career spanning more than 60 years, and in that time he has performed over 15,000 shows and appeared on well over 50 albums. During his career, the Blues Legend B.B. King has shared the stage and the studio with many successful artists including fellow Blues player Eric Clapton, Irish superstars U2, Tracey Chapman, The Rolling Stones and Willie Nelson. In 1980, King was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and 7 years later he was added to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, he has since been presented with an honorary doctorate from Brown University, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the keys the cities of Portland and Utica. After gaining this kind of recognition, some might be tempted to take the easy route and retire a legend, but the aging virtuoso has continued writing, recording and performing, even returning to the live circuit after his farewell tour in 2006, joking that he’d never actually claimed that the farewell tour would be his last!
As a guitarist, B.B. King has been credited with paving the way for today’s Blues players with his intricate soloing style, featuring heavy use of bend and vibrato techniques, two of the most common tools in the modern guitarist’s arsenal, but speak with an enthusiast for any length of time on the subject of King, and inevitably conversation will quickly gravitate towards Lucille.
Perhaps more than any other guitarist, B.B King and Lucille, the name given to his iconic instrument, have become synonymous with one and other. From the very first Lucille and the LP and single of the same name, to the more recent incarnations, that distinguished Blues guitar has evoked awe amongst guitarists as King effortlessly coaxed such sweet sounds and articulations from her strings.
“It seems that it loves to be petted and played with. There’s also a certain way you hold it, the certain noises it makes, the way it excites me ... and Lucille don’t want to play anything but the blues ... Lucille is real, when I play her it’s almost like hearing words, and of course, naturally I hear cries.” — B.B. King, liner notes from the album, Lucille, 1968
In 1980, the celebrated guitar makers Gibson first manufactured B.B. King’s signature guitar. ‘Lucille’ is an enhanced ES-335 featuring a number of tweaks and quirks as requested by the ‘King of the Blues’. Although the guitar features the arch-top, semi-hollow body of the standard ES-335, the classic f sound holes were removed to minimise feedback, and the fine tuner tailpiece, humbucker pick-ups, Lucille headstock embellishment and of course the famed ebony black finish are all present and correct.
Whether a dedicated blues player, guitar enthusiast or B.B. King fan, this high end signature model is your chance to own a piece of history, one of the most famous guitars of all time, Lucille.
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