As a youth he toiled in the cotton fields of Mississippi, earning 35 cents for every 100 pounds he picked. When the plantation owner one day offered to advance him $30, Riley B. King went into town, bought his first guitar and taught himself how to play "My Darling Clementine."
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When he was 32, it was a very good year.
B.B. King, the singer and guitarist who put the blues in a three-piece suit and took the musical genre from the barrooms and back porches of the Mississippi Delta to Carnegie Hall and the world's toniest concert stages with a signature style emulated by generations of blues and rock musicians, has...