B.B. King dies at 89: 5 facts about the blues legend, and some of his greatest hits

U.S. blues legend B.B. King performs onstage during the 45th Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, in this file picture taken on July 2, 2011. Legendary guitarist and "King of the Blues" B.B. King has died in Las Vegas, shortly after returning hom
U.S. blues legend B.B. King performs onstage during the 45th Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, in this file picture taken on July 2, 2011. Legendary guitarist and "King of the Blues" B.B. King has died in Las Vegas, shortly after returning home from hospital. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

Legendary guitarist and "King of the Blues" B.B. King has died in Las Vegas, shortly after returning home from hospital.

The 89-year-old, who suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes, had been hospitalised twice in the past month. He had announced earlier on May 1 that he was in hospice care due to poor health.

Here are five things about the man, including some of his greatest hits:

1. His real name is Riley B. King.

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He was born Riley B. King in Berclair, Mississippi, and started playing the guitar at the age of 12. Like many bluesmen, he got his start singing gospel.

2. He used to be a farmer.

As a boy, he picked cotton and later, he laboured as a tractor driver. Following a brief stint in the Army during World War 2, King returned to farming, but after an accident in 1946 in which he crashed a tractor, he fled with his guitar to nearby Memphis, where he stayed and developed his musical talent.

3. He has the most number of Grammys in the Blues genre.

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He holds the most Grammy wins in the Blues genre with 15 awards. He was also honoured with a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987.

4. The name B.B. came after he started a segment on a radio show.

While living in Memphis in 1949, he convinced the owner of the only radio outlet in the US catering exclusively to black listeners then to give him a 10-minute daily show. He began performing and DJing as The Beale Street Blues Boy. This was soon shortened to Bee Bee King and eventually to B.B.

5. Recognition for his music did not fall into his lap.

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A first single for Nashville's Bullet Records went nowhere, and a session produced by future Sun Records impresario Sam Phillips came to nothing.

However, a deal with Los Angeles R&B label Modern Records' RPM imprint spawned the 1952 hit 3 O'Clock Blues. The impassioned slow blues, recorded at the Memphis YMCA, soared to No. 1 on the American R&B chart and stayed there for five weeks.

Here are some of B.B. King's greatest hits:

Sources: Variety, BuzzFeed, Grammy.com, YouTube, iTunes