What is B.B. King's Real Name?

bb kings

Beale Street - b/w with B.B. King sign

B.B. King: David Jaimeson

B.B. King Sings the Blues

So how did one of the most famous guitarists and signer-songwriters of our time get his name?

Well, the short story is that Riley B. King was born in 1925 in a small cabin on a cotton plantation near Itta Bena, Mississippi (2.5 hours from Memphis). Through his cousin, he initially made his way to the Memphis area in 1946. He took up work at local R&B radio station WDIA as a disc jockey and signer. While at WDIA he gained the nickname of “Beale Street Blues Boy.”

As King gained prominence in the 1950s with a string of hits like “3 O’Clock Blues”, “When My Heart Beats like a Hammer”, and “Every Day I Have the Blues” his name evolved to Blues Boy King and eventually shortened to B.B. King.

Today, B.B. King is a member of the Blues Hall of Fame (1980) and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. B.B. has won 15 Grammy Awards throughout his career and was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush in 2006.

Walk a mile in Riley’s shoes by visiting B.B. King’s Blues Club on Beale Street (the restaurant on the second floor is named after his hometown), Sun Studio, WDIA and more on your trip to Memphis