May 31, 2015 in Blog

Once Upon A Time, B.B. King Played A Tele

BBK-2With the recent passing of B.B. King, it becomes obvious that we’ve lost an irreplaceable music legend and we’ll miss his presence and spirit immensely. It’s reassuring to know he left behind a large collection of inspiring music for us to enjoy, but there are a few lesser-known details surrounding Mr. King’s legacy, and it’s interesting to discover more about this historic music legend. One of these nearly-forgotten details involves his preference for using a famous classic Fender early in his career.

It seems everyone associates B.B. King with his famous Gibson ES-355 “Lucille,” but in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, he preferred another guitar model – the Fender Esquire. By the late 1940’s, B.B. King was already using Gibson guitars, but he abruptly started using a 1949 Fender Esquire for live performances, recording sessions, and in promotional photos – including a series of famous photos that were taken in Memphis, Tennessee in 1949.
The actual specs and documentation about his Esquire are limited, but judging by the photos it appears that King’s Esquire was predominantly stock, with few (if any) modifications.

Although B.B. used this guitar during the early 1950’s, a few years later he switched back to using semi-hollow Gibson guitars exclusively. It’s rumored that he continued to use this Esquire in the studio for a few recordings, but he stopped appearing with it publicly live and in promo photos by 1952. It’s interesting to see B.B. King holding a guitar other than his famous ES-355, and it’s fascinating to wonder what his music would have sounded like if he continued to use the twangy-bite from the Esquire.

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Riley B. King was massively important for not only blues musicians and music lovers, but for any musician playing any style of music. His attitude, approach, and sound were unique, including his mastery of taking simple phrases and ideas and weaving them into incredibly expressive music. He will be missed.

Rest In Peace – Riley B. King (1925-2015)

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