Chicago's Blues Scene Remembers Legend B.B. King

Chicago's blues scene was in mourning Friday after news that the "King of Blues" legend B.B. King had passed away.

King, whose scorching guitar licks and heartfelt vocals made him the idol of generations of musicians and fans, including many prominent Chicago performers, died late Thursday at the age of 89.

"This morning, I come to you all with a heavy heart. BB King was the greatest guy I ever met," Chicago blues musician Buddy Guy wrote on Facebook Friday. "The tone he got out of that guitar, the way he shook his left wrist, the way he squeezed the strings... man, he came out with that and it was all new to the whole guitar playin' world. He could play so smooth, he didn't have to put on a show. The way BB did it is the way we all do it now. He was my best friend and father to us all. I'll miss you, B. I love you and I promise I will keep these damn Blues alive."

Although he had continued to perform well into his 80s, the 15-time Grammy winner suffered from diabetes and had been in declining health during the past year. He collapsed during a concert in Chicago last October, later blaming dehydration and exhaustion. He had been in hospice care at his Las Vegas home.

King's eldest surviving daughter Shirley King of the Chicago area said she was upset that she didn't have a chance to see her father before he died.

President Barack Obama issued a statement Friday saying "America has lost a legend" and recalled a recent memory with the musician.

"Three years ago, Michelle and I hosted a blues concert at the White House. I hadn't expected that I'd be talked into singing a few lines of 'Sweet Home Chicago' with B.B. by the end of the night, but that was the kind of effect his music had, and still does," Obama said. "He gets stuck in your head, he gets you moving, he gets you doing the things you probably shouldn't do - but will always be glad you did. B.B. may be gone, but that thrill will be with us forever. And there's going to be one killer blues session in heaven tonight."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called King "the greatest bluesman in history."

"Anyone could sing a song about falling in love, but only Mr. King could sing a song about heartbreak," Emanuel said in a statement. "Today, everyone's hearts are heavier with the passing of the greatest bluesman in history. May he and Lucille continue to play on in eternity."

King's musical influence in Chicago's blues scene was undeniable.

"He was a kind man who not only played great blues music and wrote great blues music, but he tried to share it with as many people as he possibly could. When he’d come to Chicago it was almost like old home week," said Frank Pellegrino, whose family owns popular Chicago blues club Kingston Mines. "He was one of the pioneers."

But it wasn't just King's music that struck a chord with fans and friends. For many, it was his personality on and off the stage that resonated.

"BB was extraordinarily hospitable," said Lance Lewis, who performed with King in the Chicago area a number of times. "After the show, he was so nice, he called us up after we finished, he called us up right before he started and had us all crying because he knew all our names. He was a very very wonderful man."

City blues musician Ronnie Baker Brooks called King's death "a huge loss."

"I've known BB all of my life," he wrote on his Facebook page. "Every note I play from now on, means a lot more. B, you will be missed, I too will help keep these Blues alive."

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