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Title page of B. B. King wiht picture of him and guitar

Dedicated to the Memory of B. B. King (September 16, 1925 - May 14 2015 )

The Blues might be considered the soul of American music. It was born in the dark soil of the Mississippi Delta and came of age at juke joints and small bars  where the field hands by day, musician by night preformed. It grew to adulthood in an era where a African American musician could entertain white patrons but nor sit in the same bar with them after a performance. It was more than a style of music. It was a cry for justice and a part of each singer's soul. If one man could be said to have brought this genera to the world's attention, that man is B. B. King.

Stature of "Lucille" in front of the B. B. King Museum in Indianola, Mississippi
Stature of "Lucille" in front of the B. B. King Museum


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B. B. King passed away at the age of 89. His music lives on. His museum in his hometown  of  Indianola, Mississippi tells his story. That story begins as you approach the front of the building. You come face to face with a stature of "Lucille" one of his Gibson Guitars. The guitar and his voice along with hard work and talent was what raised a young man named Riley B. King from the ranks of another Delta sharecropper to the heights of stardom.

Early years exhibit et B. B. King Museum in Indianola, Mississippi
Exhibit portraying The Early Years, the Delta 1930s,

First place stop in the museum is the theater. It shows a great video of B. B. King's life. Then on the  exhibit of The Early Years, the Delta 1930s,  just inside the museum. It depicts a juke joint and shows scenes of life of a sharecropper in the Delta in the mid-1900s. There are pictures of workers hoeing cotton and little shacks where they lived.  B. B. King's dream then was simple, "I was going to have me a little farm. I could picture myself plowing, picture seeing a beautiful woman with my two or three kids coming out and bringing me some water. Those were my dreams."

Changing American exhibit at the B. B. King Museum in Indianola, Mississippi
Exhibit portraying the Civil Rights Movement in America

You move on through his live in Mississippi where he married and drove a tractor on a farm but his dream was changing. His thoughts were turning towards Memphis and music.

The Memphis Gallery depict the ups and down of an African American in the segregated 50s. One exhibit depicts the first radio stations catering to the Blues and featuring African American musicians, WGRM and WROX.

Black radio stations exhibit at the B. B. King Museum in Indianola, Mississippi
Early Black radio stations

It was in Memphis that he gained the name "B. B." standing for Blues Boy. The exhibits take you through his first break, recording Three O'clock Blues and going on the road in a country that still had a big color line. B. B. played what was known as the "Chitlin' Circuit." He worked not only to gain popularity for his own songs but to gain respect and a wider audience for the Blues. By the 60s, B. B. King was a respected name. The museum exhibits portray the awakening Civil Right Movement and the effect it had on the Blues.

On the Road exhibit at the B. B. King Museum in Indianola, Mississippi
Exhibit about life on the road for a Black musician

The later year exhibits portray the honors heaped  on this one time sharecropper. He has received 14 Grammies, 2 honorary doctorates, the highest civilian award an American can receive, The Presidential Medal of Freedom and many other accolades .He met with heads of state, and preformed in places he had once only dreamed about. All this to a young man who when he saw Memphis for the first time said, "Memphis to me then was like the Eiffel Tower, or the Tower of Pisa, or the Grand Canyon. I saw streetcars for the first time. I saw buildings like I had never seen before. God almighty, this was really something."

Artifacts at the B. B. King Museum in Indianola, Mississippi
Some of the many artifacts in the museum

One of my favorite stories the museum portrays is how "Lucille" got named. It came about in Arkansas when B. B. was playing in  a rowdy bar. Two men got into a fight and knocked over a barrel of heating oil. It set the bar afire, B. B. escaped but rushed back inside to get his guitar. He named the guitar after the woman the men were fighting over, Lucille, as a reminder never to do such a stupid thing again.

poster telling story of how Luiclle got her name at the B. B. King Museum in Indianola, Mississippi
How Lucille got her name

The museum is filed with artifacts B. B. generously donated, clothes, guitars, records and so much of his personal life. There is a "Recording Studio" where you and try your hand at you own style of the Blues. It's a place you do not want to miss.

Studio at the B. B. King Museum in Indianola, Mississippi
B. B. King's Studio

My visit to the B. B. King Museum humbled me and at the same time made me glad to live in a country where a man can achieve such honor by his own merit. What B. B. King had he earned the hard way. He worked and studied for it. He is an example that all people would do well to follow. He was honored by the highest in the land and still remained humble and remembered his roots. The B. B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center was designed to help children of the Delta and people from everywhere to learn. Maybe it is all summed up in one of his favorite sayings, "The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you."

For more info:

http://www.bbkingmuseum.org

 

 

 

 


 

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