Gibson.com has posted a history of B.B. King's
guitars with pictures, stories and videos. It's a nice insight into
"Lucille" and her many guises...
Everyone knows B.B. King calls his Gibson guitars "Lucille." The
fact is, B.B. has had numerous Lucilles since he fell in love with
his first one way back in 1949. And he's played many other Gibsons
that haven't been blessed with "her" name.
Here are the stories…
Gibson L-30 - the first Lucille
B.B.'s first "Lucille" was a Gibson L-30. He rescued it from a
nightclub fire in Twist, Arkansas, and named it after a woman in
the club. King told Jazzweekly.com, "One night, two guys
started to fighting and one knocked down one of them containers
[kerosene barrels, for heating the club] and it was already burning
with kerosene and so when it spilled onto the floor, it looked like
a river of fire and everybody started to run for the front door -
including B.B. King.
"But when I got on the outside, I realized then that I had left
my guitar on the inside. So I went back for it. The building was a
wooden building and burning rapidly. It started to collapse around
me and I almost lost my life trying to save my guitar. So the next
morning, we found out that these two guys that were fighting were
fighting about a lady that worked in the little dance hall. We
learned that her name was Lucille. So I named the guitar Lucille to
remind me to never do a thing like that again."
And so the Lucille legend was born. King's first Lucille was a
Gibson L-30, a budget model. The L-30 was small-bodied, non-cutaway
and with a flat back. The L-30 featured a simple trapeze tailpiece
and pickguard, an adjustable bridge, single-binding (front and
back) and dot fingerboard markers. Early examples were finished in
black, but later L-30s had dark mahogany sides, back and neck, with
a dark sunburst top. The model was discontinued in 1943.
As King's career flourished, he got a fancier guitar. Launched
in 1949, the ES-5 was then one of Gibson's flashiest and sonically
most versatile models - it had three P-90 pickups. King's was the
early version, without the complex switching of the 1955-60
updates. The ES-5 came in blonde and sunburst, but B.B.'s was a
blonde, with a trio of volume pots and a black pickguard. The ES-5
was discontinued in 1960.
In 1951, King had his major hit with a cover of Lowell Fulson's
"Three O'Clock Blues." By this time B.B. was playing a Gibson
ES-125. With a single P-90 pickup and no cutaway it featured a
bound top and back, tortoiseshell pickguard, single-bound top and
back and dot neck inlays. "Three O'Clock Blues" was a slow-burning
12-bar that set the template for B.B.'s inimitable style. No video
in 1951, of course, so here King is playing the hit song on a later
Electric blues pioneer T-Bone Walker was a big influence on B.B.
T-Bone favored Gibson's ES-250, a mid-range hollowbody with two
P-90s. In 1955, Gibson released the similar ES-350T and Byrdland,
with slimmer bodies, better specs and a shorter scale length. The
Byrdland was endorsed by jazz players Billy Byrd and Hank Garland -
hence the name - and B.B. liked it. Its ebony fingerboard with
block pearl inlays were smart, and its shorter scale made it
perfect for complex jazz chording. Although B.B. toted a Byrdland
for a while in the late '50s/early '60s, its most famous user
remains "Motor City Madman" Ted Nugent. Who'da thunk B.B. and "The
Nuge" had anything in common?
King has also used an ES-175. The guitar was a favorite of jazz
legends Joe Pass and Herb Ellis, and King used his for his jazzier
excursions. King is pictured with one on the 1959 album BB
King Wails. The ES-175, unlike the top-line L-5 and Super 400, had
a laminated maple (not solid carved spruce) top. This kept prices
down and helped combat feedback.
The Gibson ES-355 is the "Lucille" everyone now associates with
B.B. King. He'd played many budget-to-flagship Gibsons for many
years, but the flash ES-355 was B.B.'s ultimate. A variation of the
ES-335, the ES-355 had looks, volume, sweetness and stinging tone.
It also boasted the 6-way Varitone selector, which offers a spread
of sounds over and above the Gibson ES-335 norm. You can hear the
"honk" of the Varitone's capabilities on King's 1969 classic "The
Thrill is Gone." King has played ES-335s and ES-345s too, but the
ES-355 was the one fit for a King… and the guitar became the queen
Here's B.B. at his funkiest best in the 1960s, on a tobacco
It was 1980 when Gibson and King first collaborated to create
his own, exclusive
Lucille model. As well as personalized pearl inlays, B.B.
requested that Gibson remove the f-holes, to reduce feedback. In
earlier years, King would often stuff his regular ES-355's f-holes
with cloth to inhibit feedback, so this was a much-needed mod for
the bluesman. As a Gibson Custom model, it is premium-priced.
Gibson Lucille Limited offered different colors.
Epiphone Lucille also offers a more affordable option.
Featuring a laminated maple body with glued-in maple neck, it
boasts a bound rosewood fingerboard and multi- bound body and
headstock. With stereo and mono outputs plus the 6-way Varitone
switch, it's classic B.B. on a budget.
Neither guitar comes with B.B's left hand - his vibrato
technique is legend in the history of electric guitar - but the
guitars may help you get that King tone. Soak up that B.B King tone
in this tour de force.
To read more articles like this visit the Gibson lifestyle pages
Gibson Reveal the Custom Billy F. Gibbons Goldtop -
Gibson and ZZ Top veteran Billy F Gibbons join forces to...
Gibson Releases the Les Paul Recording -
A major part of Les Paul’s original vision for the solidbody electric guitar...
Gibson Introduce Brendon Small Snow Falcon V -
Even if the hardest-rocking mayhem merchants in the world of metal might...
Gibson USA Goes with Cleartone Strings -
Gibson USA electric guitars now come with factory-installed Cleartone strings. This move reunites...
Gibson Releases 1961 Les Paul Tribute Model -
In 1961, Gibson took a quantum leap forward in style and design...
Gibson Introduce the Zakk Wylde Moderne of Doom -
From his own band Black Label Society, to tours and recordings...
Slash Signature Vermillion Les Paul -
With his monster riffs, unquestioned talent, and pure-rock attitude, Slash emerged in 1987 with...
Gibson Announces Rusty Anderson Signature ES-335 -
As if working as Paul McCartney’s touring lead guitarist since 2001 wasn’t enough,...
Gibson Reissue 90s-Era M-III -
When Gibson introduced the M-III in 1991 it totally embodied the shred guitar,...
Gibson Announces Captain Kirk Douglas SG Guitar -
As the guitarist with The Roots, the beloved house band...
Gibson Introduce Luther Dickinson ES-335 and Elliot Easton Tikibird Models -
Gibson's recently announced Signature models...
Slash Signature Rosso Corsa Les Paul
After saving big rock riffs from the electronic mainstream with Guns N' Roses, and...
Scorpions Man and Gibson Unveil Rudolf Schenker Flying
Gibson has unveiled the Rudolf Schenker Flying
Gibson Unveil 20th Anniversary 1965 Firebird VII
A 20th Anniversary 1965 Firebird VII Reissue has been...
Gibson Unveils Sully Erna Les Paul Studio -
introduces the Sully Erna Les Paul Studio, a...
Gibson Announces 50th Anniversary Thunderbird
As the fierce four-string partner to the Firebird guitar line
Gibson Unveils 20th Anniversary Nighthawk
A modern classic comes of age as Gibson celebrate two
Gibson Announces 20th Anniversary 1957 Les Paul Custom
Black Beauty -
To kick off a very limited edition...
Gibson Announce Limited Run of Joe Walsh 1960 Les Paul
Signature Guitars -
Joe Walsh is a rare...
Gibson Unveils Frank Zappa Roxy SG -
Frank Zappa has long been hailed as one of the most...
Gibson unveil Bill Kelliher Golden Axe Explorer
When your tone's as massive as that of Mastodon's Bill...
Gibson Name Their Top Ten Riffs of The '80s
Gibson Guitars have listed their top 10...
Gibson Custom has announced the release of Collector's Choice #6
1959 Les Paul #9-1918. This rare and highly prized...
Tony Iommi Named Greatest Heavy Metal Guitarist by Gibson
Black Sabbath axeman, Tony
Iommi has been...
Gibson has a long and glorious history
of crafting top-notch electric 12-string guitars, from the elegant
ES-335-12 of 1965,...
A: Steve Vai - EVO Ibanez Jem JEM7VWH
Evo is the name Steve Vai gave...
After recently announcing its 60th Anniversary Limited Goldtop
Les Paul, based on the 1952 original model, Gibson has now...
Along with her band the Nocturnals, Grace Potter
channels the best of late '60s and early '70s rock into...
The latest installment of Gibson
Acoustic's Five Star Series celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the
legendary King of...
Legendary The Eagles guitarist, Joe Walsh, released his new solo
album Analog Man earlier this month, and...
Gibson Acoustic and Sheryl Crow announce their second
collaboration with the release of the Sheryl Crow Southern Jumbo
Gibson has introduced an impressive new take on the classic Zakk
Wylde 'Bullseye' Les Paul with their new 'Vertigo'...
Like the Jeff Beck track we posted last friday, this video of B.B. King and Buddy Guy from their show together...
The Ace Frehley Les Paul was one of a number of new axes
unveiled at the Musikmesse Frankfurt 2012...
For a period of the early 70's, there was no band in America as
big as Alice Cooper. Despite...