This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #388: The Thrill is Gone by B.B. King.
If Rock n’ Roll is built upon a foundation of the Blues then, it is only fitting that some of the legendary Blues players start to appear on this list. As much as we celebrate the accomplishments and creativity of groups like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, none of their great work would have been possible if they hadn’t spent their teenage years pouring over records by the likes of Muddy Waters, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Billie Holliday, Albert King, Robert Johnson and the man born with the name, Riley B. King, who would later gain fame using the moniker, B.B. King. The “B.B.” in King’s name stands for “Blues Boy”, which was a nickname given to him as a much younger man when he was just establishing himself as a musician to be reckoned with in Memphis, Tennessee back in the 1950s.
B.B. King was born in Mississippi and grew up in a family that valued religion and the act of attending Church regularly. King was introduced to Blues music by the Pastor of his childhood church who, according to King, preached with a guitar slung over his shoulder. As you may know, churches were one of the most common places for people of colour to sing and play during the pre-desegregation days. The style of singing was often very passionate and soulful so, not surprisingly, the Blues found a home there, too. King’s childhood was spent travelling along the Mississippi Delta while staying with various family members. Along the way, King worked several odd jobs as a teenager and saved enough money to buy a guitar of his own. With this guitar, he moved to Memphis and started playing in small “juke joints”. Eventually, he landed a gig on a radio station there. His playing impressed listeners who demanded that he be given a larger, more regular time slot. The rest, as they say, is History.
B.B. King developed his craft by playing often and touring relentlessly. He started out on the “Chitlin’ Circuit” but soon, he was playing bigger and fancier clubs and, in time, he was playing for White audiences in major cities like New York and Las Vegas. Frank Sinatra heard King play and invited him to be his opening act in Las Vegas. King credits Sinatra for helping to open Las Vegas up for black entertainers like him.
Like many great musicians, King was self-taught. As much as he is known for his style of musicianship, he is, also, known for his guitar, which is known as “Lucille”. The story behind that is that one night, while playing in a club, a fight broke out between two men in the audience. The ensuing ruckus caused a fire to break out and the club to be evacuated. Once outside, King realized that his instruments were all still inside (there was no insurance for people like him in those days) so, he risked his life by going back in to retrieve his guitar. Upon returning with it, he learned that the two men who were fighting were doing so over a woman named, Lucille. King dubbed his smoke-covered guitar, “Lucille” on the spot as a reminder to never fight over a woman and to never again rush inside a burning building.
B.B. King had many #1 hits on the Soul and R & B charts. His final #1 hit was a collaboration with another white group that wanted to mine the Blues for their own purposes, Irish supergroup, U2. They had a hit with King called, “When Love Comes To Town” from their album, “Rattle and Hum”. King played almost right up until his death in 2015 and, when he played, his signature song was “The Thrill Is Gone”. This is a song steeped in the classic Blues tradition of soulful guitar playing and emotion-laden lyrics that well up from the very soul of his being. When B.B. King plays this song, each note is crisply played and resonates in crystal clear fashion to the ear. His voice is strong and deep. He is, without question, “The King of the Blues”. So, it is with much respect and gratitude that I present to you all, the late, great Mr. B. B. King with, “The Thrill is Gone”. Sit back and enjoy!
The link to the music video for “The Thrill is Gone” by B.B. King, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Mr. B.B. King, can be found here.
Thanks to KEXP for helping to support The Blues, as well as, all other musical genres. The link to their website can be found here.