Well Nashville had country music but Memphis had the soul
Lord, the white boy had the rhythm and that started rock and roll
And I was here when it happened don’t you all think I ought to know
I was here when it happened, yeah, yeah, yeah
I watched Memphis give birth to rock and roll, Lord, lord yeah.
~Carl Perkins (Birth Of Rock And Roll)
In the early years, when the King [Elvis Presley] and the Four Horsemen [Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins & Roy Orbison] reigned over American music, Memphis music was the life force of teenage rebellion. It influenced clothing styles, created movie idols, helped end a war in Vietnam, and eventually changed the politics of a nation unaccustomed to listening to the voices of youth. By 1985, three decades after that rebellion had been hatched in the tiny studio of Sam Phillip’s Sun Records, popular music had gone through many cycles, as had the artists who invented it, but seldom had the music, or the artists who created it, ever returned to it’s birthplace.
~James L. Dickerson (Goin’ Back to Memphis: A Century of Blues, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Glorious Soul)
Johnny Cash (Lewis, Perkins & Orbison) – We Remember The King:
As the swift bird flies o’er the mountains
How we wished, we were there at its wings
No Sir, by far, to a friend, we have lost We remember the King
We remember (we remember the King)
We recall (we recall everything)
We will treasure all of the gifts, that he did bring
We remember the King
“The Sun recordings maximized the effective contrast between the hustling rhythm of the bass and acoustic guitar and the ponderous, sparse vocals & lead guitar. Phillips achievement was to keep Cash’s sound at it’s bare essentials, an then fatten it up with the use of slapback echo. Subsequent producers and engineers could never quite recapture that formula. .. Johnny Cash’s three years of recordings for Sun are a wonderful demonstration of just how far a whole can outclass the sum of it’s parts”
~Colin Escott & Martin Hawkins (Good Rockin’ Tonight: Sun Records and the Birth of Rock ‘N’ Roll)
I’m visiting SUN Studio again i January, and will post a series of SUN/STAX/Memphis related articles the coming months. This is the first one.
A 2 minute history of Donald “Duck” Dunn:“We were recording almost a hit a day for a while there. But I never knew how popular that music was until I came to England with Otis Redding in 1967.”
– Donald Dunn (about the Stax period)
The blues was like that problem child that you may have had in the family. You was a little bit ashamed to let anybody see him, but you loved him. You just didn’t know how other people would take it.
~B. B. King
I never use that word, retire.
~B. B. King
Universally hailed as the reigning king of the blues, the legendary B.B. King is without a doubt the single most important electric guitarist of the last half century. His bent notes and staccato picking style have influenced legions of contemporary bluesmen, while his gritty and confident voice — capable of wringing every nuance from any lyric — provides a worthy match for his passionate playing.
~Bill Dahl (allmusic.com)
The Thrill Is Gone (Live at Montreux 1993):
Also known as
B.B. King, King of the Blues
September 16, 1925 (age 88)
Itta Bena, Mississippi, United States
Blues, soul blues, jazz, blues rock, electric blues, rhythm and blues, soul
Riley B. King (born September 16, 1925), known by the stage name B.B. King, is an American songwriter, vocalist, and famed blues guitarist.
Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at No. 6 on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. and No. 17 in Gibson’sTop 50 Guitarists of All Time.According to Edward M. Komara, King “introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending and shimmering vibrato that would influence virtually every electric blues guitarist that followed.”King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He is widely considered one of the most influential blues musicians of all time, because of this he is often nicknamed ‘The King of Blues’. He is also known for performing tirelessly throughout his musical career appearing at 250-300 concerts per year until his seventies. In 1956 it was noted that he appeared at 342 shows, still at the age of 86 King appears at 100 shows a year.
Over a period of 63 years, King has played in excess of 15,000 performances.
Over the years, King has developed one of the world’s most identifiable guitar styles. He borrowed from Blind Lemon Jefferson, T-Bone Walker and others, integrating his precise and complex vocal-like string bends and his left hand vibrato, both of which have become indispensable components of rock guitarists’ vocabulary. His economy and phrasing has been a model for thousands of players, from Eric Clapton and George Harrison to Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. King has mixed blues, jazz, swing, mainstream pop and jump into a unique sound. In King’s words, “When I sing, I play in my mind; the minute I stop singing orally, I start to sing by playing Lucille.”
Everyday I have the Blues:
Honors & awards:
In 1977, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music by Yale University
In 1980, he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
In 1987, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
In 1990, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
In 1991, he was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship from the NEA.
King was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors in 1995. This is given to recognize “the lifelong accomplishments and extraordinary talents of our nation’s most prestigious artists.”
In 2004, the Royal Swedish Academy of Music awarded him the Polar Music Prize for his “significant contributions to the blues”.
On December 15, 2006, President George W. Bush awarded King the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
On May 27, 2007, King was awarded an honorary doctorate in music by Brown University.
On May 14, 2008, King was presented with the keys to the city of Utica, New York; and on May 18, 2008, the mayor of Portland, Maine, Edward Suslovic, declared the day “B.B. King Day” in the city. Prior to King’s performance at the Merrill Auditorium, Suslovic presented King with the keys to the city.
In 2009, TIME named B.B. King No.3 on its list of the 10 best electric guitarists of all time.
Each year during the first week in June, a B.B. King Homecoming Festival is held in Indianola, Mississippi.
A Mississippi Blues Trail marker was added for B.B. King, commemorating his birthplace.
On May 29, 2010, Sabrosa Park (at the small town of Sabrosa, north of Portugal) was renamed B.B. King Park in honor of King and the free concert he played before 20,000 people.