When living legend B.B. King titles his new MCA album Makin' Love Is Good For You, somehow you just know the King of the Blues knows what he's talking about. Picking up where his Grammy-winning 1998 hit Blues On The Bayou left off, the new album, recorded at Dockside Studios in Lafayette, Louisiana, features a similarly rough and ready traditional style, with B.B.'s indelible imprint on all of the album's 14 tracks. B.B. himself produced Makin' Love Is Good For You, wrote five new songs for the album, and teamed up with his incomparable touring band, the B.B. King Blues Boys, who backed B.B. and Lucille throughout the album as seamlessly and deftly as they do on the world's stages.
Kicking off with the funky groove of "I Got To Leave This Woman," Makin' Love Is Good For You showcases B.B.'s fifty years of blues experience and mastery. His silky rendition of "Since I Fell For You," the doo-wop classic that was a Top 10 hit for Lenny Welch in 1963, contrasts with the New Orleans sass of "I Know" and B.B.'s own newly-written and gospel-influenced "Peace Of Mind." "Monday Woman" is an old-fashioned barbequed blues stomper, while B.B.'s own "Ain't Nobody Like My Baby" is a fabulous new track in the tradition of King classics like "How Blue Can You Get."
"Makin' Love Is Good For You" provides a dose of good advice from the blues doctor, while other tracks like Willie Dixon's "Don't Go No Farther," B.B.'s own "Actions Speak Louder Than Words," and the uptempo "What You Bet" remind music fans why B.B. King has long been called the King of the Blues. The double-time "You're On Top" and B.B.'s composition "Too Good To You, Baby" keep the party rolling, while "I'm In The Wrong Business" is sung with wit and panache. The album closes with B.B.'s own "She's My Baby" a tender slow-cooked tune destined for the hall of fame.
Of course, B.B. King himself has already gotten there. Since Riley B. King, now known the world over as B.B. King, started recording in the late 1940s, he has released over fifty albums, many of them considered blues classics, including 1965's definitive concert album Live At The Regal, 1976's collaboration with Bobby 'Blue' Bland, Together For The First Time, 1997's Gold-certified and Grammy-nominated all-star duets set, Deuces Wild, and 1998's Grammy-winning instant classic Blues On The Bayou.
Now 74, B.B. continues to tour extensively, averaging over 200 concerts per year around the world. Classics such as "Payin' The Cost To Be The Boss," "The Thrill Is Gone," How Blue Can You Get," "Everyday I Have The Blues," and "Why I Sing The Blues" are concert staples. Over the years, the 9-time Grammy Award winner has had two #1 R&B hits, 1951's "Three O'Clock Blues," and 1952's "You Don't Know Me," and four #2 R&B hits, 1953's "Please Love Me," 1954's "You Upset Me Baby," 1960's "Sweet Sixteen, Part I," and 1966's "Don't Answer The Door, Part I." B.B.'s most popular crossover hit, 1970's "The Thrill Is Gone," went to #15 pop.
Riley B. King was born on September 16, 1925 on a cotton plantation in Itta Bene, Mississippi, just outside the Mississippi Delta town of Indianola. In his youth, he played on the corner of Church and Second Street for dimes and would sometimes play in as many as four towns on a Saturday night. In 1947, with his guitar and $2.50, he hitchhiked north to Memphis, Tennessee, to pursue his musical career. Memphis was the city where key musicians of the South gravitated and which supported a large, competitive musical community where virtually every black musical style was heard. B.B. stayed with his cousin Bukka White, one of the most renowned rural blues performers of his time, who schooled B.B. further in the art of the blues.
B.B.'s first big break came in 1948 when he performed on Sonny Boy Williamson's radio program on KWEM out of West Memphis. This led to steady performance engagements at the Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis and later to a ten minute spot on the legendary black-staffed and managed Memphis radio station WDIA. B.B.'s "King's Spot," sponsored by Pepticon, a health tonic, became so popular that it was increased in length and became the "Sepia Swing Club." As his popularity grew, Riley B. King needed a catchy radio name. What started out as Beale Street Blues Boy was shortened to Blues Boy King, and eventually the name that stuck: B.B. King. Incidentally, King's middle name, B., is just that, it is not an abbreviation.
In the mid-1950s, while B.B. was performing at a dance in Twist, Arkansas, a few fans became unruly. Two men got into a fight and knocked over the club's heat source: a kerosene-fueled trash can bonfire, setting fire to the hall. B.B. raced outdoors to safety with everyone else, then realized that he left his beloved $30 acoustic guitar inside, so he rushed back inside the burning building to retrieve it, narrowly escaping death. When he later found out that the fight had been over a woman named Lucille, he decided to give the name to his guitar. Ever since, each one of B.B.'s beloved trademark Gibson guitars has been called Lucille.
Soon after the release of his first number one hit, "Three O'Clock Blues," B.B. began touring nationally. In 1956, B.B. and his band played an astonishing 342 one night stands. From the chitlin' circuit with its small-town cafes, juke joints, and country dance halls to rock palaces, symphony concert halls, universities, resort hotels and amphitheaters, nationally and internationally, B.B. King has become the most renowned blues musician of the past 50 years.
Starting as a child, with an instrument he fashioned from wires strung to a beam on his shotgun shack's porch, B.B. 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 guitarists' vocabulary. His economy, his every-note-counts phrasing, has been a model for thousands of players, including Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Jeff Beck. B.B. has mixed traditional blues, jazz, swing, mainstream pop and jump into a unique sound, alternately using his own voice and that of his guitar - never singing and playing at the same time. 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."
In 1968, B.B. played at the Newport Folk Festival and at Bill Graham's Fillmore West on bills with the hottest contemporary rock artists of the day who idolized B.B. and helped to introduce him to a young white audience. In 1969, B.B. was chosen by the Rolling Stones to open 18 American concerts for them; Ike and Tina Turner also played 18 shows on the tour.
B.B. was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1984 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He received NARAS' Lifeti