Saturday, May 16

Lucille and the Blues Boy

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By Grant Davies

On this day (-2) one of the most iconic figures of our time passed into history.

This story is about his love affairs. He had many, and they gave him the blues. In fact, he had a love affair with the blues. If none of this makes sense, just stick with me, I'll do my best to further confuse you.

His name was Riley B. King (nickname - The Blues Boy) and the longest affair he had was with his beloved Lucille. He fell in love with her even before she had a name. He actually named her himself. He did so right after he ran into a burning building to save her from the flames. At least that's the legend, and like much of the stuff on this site, it's probably true.

Lucille was named after a girl who, one evening in a dance hall, was the object of admiration of several suitors. So enamored of her were these two men that they took to fighting over her. Such rash behavior rarely ends well and this time was no exception. During the melee a barrel of fuel was knocked over and the resulting conflagration set the stage for Riley's courageous rescue.

He ran into the building, grabbed his guitar, and successfully retreated. Guitar? What about the girl and the combatants? Um,,I don't know. It's said that she made it out, but the two men didn't.

Anyway, he said he named the guitar Lucille to remind himself not to fight over women or run into any burning buildings. Lucille (the guitar, not the girl) became famous when he became famous. And he called every guitar he ever owned by the same name after that.

By now you have figured out that the Blues Boy's nickname was shortened to B.B. and he is known to music fans everywhere as B.B. King. Seems like he did pretty well for a guy who started out working in a cotton field in Mississippi.

Other than his love of Lucille and the blues genre, he loved performing. He averaged about 200 concerts per year well into his 70s and was performing regularly until last October when his health finally caught up to him. He also loved Frank Sinatra who he said opened the Vegas entertainment doors for black musicians. He claimed that he went to sleep every night to Sinatra's song, "The Wee Small Hours of the Morning."

To celebrate his life and music, stop down at the "Dance Hall Blues Club" and stay until the wee hours. And be sure to buy a drink for any girl named Lucille. But if she asks how you are doing, tell her that ever since B.B. died, the thrill is gone.


Much of the information for this story was gleaned from an article by Spencer Kornhaber in the Atlantic Magazine. The rest was gathered from a Wikipedia entry.  The inspiration for writing it was provided by a sometime reader of Cheeky History, Veronica Then.

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