B.B. King’s ‘Lucille’ Guitar Sells For $280,000 at Auction

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A guitar given to B.B. King for his 80th birthday has sold for $280,000 at an auction of items from the blues legend’s estate.

Julien’s Auctions says King often used the black Gibson ES-345 prototype that was one of several guitars he called “Lucille.” A spokeswoman for the auction house, Mozell Miley-Bailey, said Monday that the buyer wants to remain anonymous.

Before the auction, Julien’s estimated the guitar’s value at $80,000 to $100,000. The headstock has “B.B. King 80” and a crown inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and the guitar is autographed on the back. The Gibson company gave King the guitar as a gift.

On Monday (Sept. 16), the search engine has replaced its logo with a musical tribute to King, who died in 2015 at the age of 89. “The Thrill Is Gone” remains an American blues classic and one of the most beloved tunes from King’s catalog, and it soundtracks artist Steve Spencer’s rendering of King. Google worked with Spencer to create a special, one-of-a-kind animation inspired not only by King and his work, but by Memphis, Tenn., the city in which he honed his craft and built his following. (Billboard)

For more than half a century, Riley B. King – better known as B.B. King – has defined the blues for a worldwide audience. Since he started recording in the 1940s, he has released over fifty albums, many of them classics. He was born September 16, 1925, on a plantation in Itta Bena, Mississippi, near Indianola. In his youth, he played on street corners for dimes, and would sometimes play in as many as four towns a night. In 1947, he hitchhiked to Memphis, TN, to pursue his music career. Memphis was where every important musician of the South gravitated, and which supported a large musical community where every style of African American music could be found. B.B. stayed with his cousin Bukka White, one of the most celebrated blues performers of his time, who schooled B.B. further in the art of the blues.

Over the years, B.B. 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 guitarist’s vocabulary. His economy, his every-note-counts phrasing, has been a model for thousands of players, from Eric Clapton and George Harrison to Jeff Beck. B.B. has mixed traditional blues, jazz, swing, mainstream pop and jump into a unique sound. In B.B.’s words, “When I sing, I play in my mind; the minute I stop singing orally, I start to sing by playing Lucille.”

“I hope that people watch this Google Doodle and feel like they’ve been on an emotional journey with B.B. — that they’ve climbed in his shoes a little bit, that they’ve seen that he didn’t start at the top,” says Spencer. “He worked his way and found his own unique voice. Maybe they can do that, too. Maybe it’s the same kind of journey they’re on. Maybe it’s the journey we’re all on.”

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