Mississippi born Riley B. King began playing music on the streets of his native Indianola in the '40s, eventually moving to Memphis to pursue a career as a bluesman. He found a home as a DJ on legendary Memphis radio Station WDIA in the early '50s, a position he used to further his budding reputation as a guitarist/singer to be reckoned with. His on-air moniker, "the Beale Street Blues Boy" ultimately metamorphosed into his stage name. He spent the '50s cementing his legend as an energetic performer, playing with Johnny Ace and Bobby "Blue" Bland and on his own. His very modern, urban style was influenced not only by T-Bone Walker, but by jazz guitarist Charlie Christian. King's gestalt was miles away from the blues' rural beginnings, relying on witty, sophisticated lyrics and almost jazzy rhythms. His signature guitar style, as played on his trademark Gibson hollow-body "Lucille," combined quick vibrato with cutting, single-note lines and aggressively bent notes. His boisterous vocals, entertainment-value showmanship and gregarious personality made him beloved not just to blues aficionados, but to the larger pop audience.
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