It's virtually impossible to overstate B.B. King's influence on the blues. As Charlie Parker and John Coltrane altered the path of jazz saxophone for contemporaries and future players alike, B.B.'s guitar and vocals generated imitators from the start of his phenomenal career and have marked almost every blues performer since. For those who could cut it, the floating, subtly quivering punctuation of his leads and the sweet, mournful shouts that announced the next lyric affected their act (witness Buddy Guy).
Perhaps his early 1950s stint as a popular Memphis DJ attuned the Beale Street Blues Boy to the makings of a hit, as commercial success became the Mississippi-born King's constant companion during his ascendance from the chitlin circuit to concert halls. Early chart-toppers (and future classics) such as "Sweet Little Angel" and "Everyday I Have the Blues" started a string of winners that would stretch through the next four decades, including a late-'80s hit with U2, "When Love Comes to Town." B.B.'s 2000 collaboration with prize pupil Eric Clapton, Riding With the King, also made noise at the check-out line. Make some noise of your own this Monday, when B.B. shares the stage with his old Memphis partner Bobby Blue Bland at the Palace Theatre.
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