B.B. King, nicknamed King of the Blues, died late Thursday at home in Las Vegas. He as 89.
According to his attorney, Brent Bryson, King died peacefully in his sleep at 9:40 p.m. PDT.
King got his start in radio with a gospel quartet in Mississippi, but soon moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where he got a job as a disc jockey at WDIA. This gave him access to a wide range of recordings. He studied the great blues and jazz guitarists, like T-Bone Walker, and played live music a few minutes each day as the “Beale Street Blues Boy,” which was later shortened to B.B. Through his broadcasts and live performances, he quickly built up a following in the black community, and recorded his first R&B hit in 1951 titled “Three O’Clock Blues.”
King was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1984, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and received the Songwriters Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush, gave a guitar to Pope John Paul II and had President Barack Obama sing along to his “Sweet Home Chicago.”
Other Grammys included best male rhythm `n’ blues performance in 1971 for “The Thrill Is Gone,” best ethnic or traditional recording in 1982 for “There Must Be a Better World Somewhere” and best traditional blues recording or album several times. His final Grammy came in 2009 for best blues album for “One Kind Favor.”
Suffering from diabetes the 15-time Grammy winner’s health had been declining during the past year. He collapsed during a concert in Chicago last October, later blaming dehydration and exhaustion. He had 15 biological and adopted children. Family members say 11 survive.