We’re talking about the nature, sources, and development of B. B. King’s guitar style from his earliest recordings up to the present time. This study also investigates to what extent certain playing characteristics have changed over his recording career. At the onset this study assumes that there is a consistency of style which generates the blues improvisations of B. B. King and that his style has had an impact upon many contemporary black blues guitarists as well as a younger generation of white guitarists, especially in the blues and rock idiom.
We’re starting assessment and survey of related literature and scholarship to date dealing with the artist and his tradition. The inadequacies of existing scholarship on individual blues artists are pointed out, especially in respect to musicological analysis. A general overview of the Mississippi Delta blues tradition is presented along with pertinent biographical information on B. B. King. The artist’s own impact as a unique guitar stylist is also discussed in order to establish his stature as a blues performer.
Key listening sources, such as gospel, blues, jazz, and country are cited and investigated further through information gleamed from a personal interview with the artist himself. Also examined in depth are several tutors and guitar idols claimed by B. B. King as having a profound influence upon his developing guitar style. Other instrumental idols are investigated as well.
Twenty transcribed guitar solos of B. B. King are analyzed in detail along with several transcriptions of his predecessors in order to discern uniqueness or similarity in style, motivic development in guitar solos and vocal responses, and their relationship to one-another. Also examined are several of King’s guitar techniques, some unique, and several technical devices which place King in the realm of a blues-jazz performer.
Included in this thought process is a table illustrating the chronological development of B. B. King’s guitar style.