By ANGIE CARNATHAN
Critically acclaimed blues musician B. B. King takes the stage tonight at the Lee Hall’s Bettersworth Auditorium on Mississippi State University’s campus as part of the 2011-2012 Lyceum Series. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. and is sold out.
King is best known for his hits “The Thrill is Gone,” “Payin’ the Cost to be the Boss,” “How Blue Can You Get,” “Everyday I Have the Blues” and “Why I Sing the Blues.”
Mary Leigh Morris is a senior math major at MSU and served on the Performing Arts Committee last year. She is planning on attending the concert this evening and said she’s looking forward to the show.
“I know that a lot of students are really excited to have somebody so influential and well-known to be playing on our campus, and I think we all just feel really honored to have the opportunity to see B.B. King play live,” Morris said. “We know this is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Performing Arts Committee Chair Maridith Geuder said to call King a legend is to use a word that doesn’t come close to describing his contribution to American music.
“By partnering with other campus organizations, the Lyceum Series is thrilled to bring this Mississippi icon to Mississippi State for the inaugural performance of the 2011-12 season,” Geuder said. “We are especially pleased that our students will have an opportunity to experience the excitement of a live performance by an unparalleled artist. It’s going to be an evening everyone will remember.”
King was born near Itta Bena on a plantation on Sept. 16, 1925. He has recorded more than 50 albums over his lifetime and many are considered classics.
King began his musical career playing on Delta street corners for dimes. He hitchhiked to Memphis, Tenn., in 1947, hoping to break into the music business.
King’s first break came in 1948 when he was asked to play Sonny Boy Williamson’s Memphis radio program on KWEM. After finding some success on the radio and gaining more recognition for playing live at local hot spots, he took on the nickname “Beale Street Blues Boy,” which was later shortened to “Blues Boy,” and finally “B.B.”
King has toured extensively throughout his career and averages more than 250 concerts annually all over the globe. He has said he will keep touring and playing live as long as his health permits.
“The way I feel today, as long as my health is good and I can handle myself well and people still come to my concerts, still buy my CDs, I’ll keep playing until I feel like I can’t,” King said.
King is a member of the Blues Foundation and was asked to join the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was chosen in 1987 for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences’ Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award. Rolling Stone magazine ranks him third on its list of “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” King is considered by many to be the most renowned blues musician of all time.
In an interview with PBS, King said playing in his home state is something he loves to do, since he felt there was a lack of role models for him when he was a boy.
“Today, there are many who the kids can look up to,” King said. “It makes me feel good that I can do something for the kids that wasn’t done for us when I was growing up. So every year, the first week of June, for the last 29 years I go back to Indianola, Mississippi, and I play free concerts the whole week. And it’s a good feeling –– it’s the highlight of my year to go down and see these little 7-, 8-, 9- and 10-year-olds walk up to me like little men and women and say ‘How you doing B.B.?’ That is a feeling I cannot explain to you.”
According to its website, the annual Lyceum Series offers exposure to the talents of national artists in a variety of performance areas, ranging from music to drama to dance. In a broad range of programming, the Lyceum Series is an important part of expanding cultural and educational horizons.
For more information on this and other upcoming Lyceum events, visit http://www.lyceum.msstate.edu .