News

The Gibson Guitars of B.B. King

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...

I Love Lucille: The Gibson Guitars of B.B. King

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.

Gibson ES-5

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.

Gibson ES-125

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 "Lucille"…

Gibson Byrdland

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?

Gibson ES-175

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.

Gibson ES-355

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 of Lucilles.

Here's B.B. at his funkiest best in the 1960s, on a tobacco ES-355.

Gibson Lucille

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. The  Gibson Lucille Limited offered different colors.

And the  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 at www.gibson.com

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

Related News

Gibson Through The Lens at the British Music Experience

Gibson Through The Lens at the British Music Experience

A trove of rare and vintage photos of iconic musicians such as Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Kurt...

Read Article
Gibson Announce Bob Dylan Collectors Model

Gibson Announce Bob Dylan Collectors Model

Gibson Brands announce a new collaboration with Bob Dylan with the release of the Limited Edition Bob Dylan SJ-200 Collector's...

Read Article
Gibson USA Introduce Limited Edition SGS3 2015

Gibson USA Introduce Limited Edition SGS3 2015

Gibson USA  introduce a new Limited Edition 2015 SGS3 3 pickup SG complete with vintage style sideways Vibrola. The guitar...

Read Article
Gibson to Showcase Les Paul Reference Monitors at CES 2015

Gibson to Showcase Les Paul Reference Monitors at CES 2015

Gibson Brands look to showcase the new Les Paul Reference Monitors at the upcoming International CES in January. The Les...

Read Article
Gibson Re-Introduces The ES-225

Gibson Re-Introduces The ES-225

(PRESS RELEASE): The ES-225 was first introduced in 1956 as the lower-cost sibling of the “thinline” Byrdland and ES-350T guitars...

Read Article
Gibson Custom Introduces Collector's Choice #26 1959 Les Paul "Whitford" 'Burst' Guitar

Gibson Custom Introduces Collector's Choice #26 1959 Les Paul Whitford 'Burst' Guitar

(PRESS RELEASE): In his unwavering pursuit of success, particularly through the challenges of Aerosmith’s early years, Brad Whitford displays a...

Read Article
Gibson Release Dave Grohl Signature ES-335

Gibson Release Dave Grohl Signature ES-335

(PRESS RELEASE): In his successful segue from drummer with legendary Nirvana to guitarist, singer and songwriter with Foo Fighters, Dave...

Read Article
Gibson Introduce the Robby Krieger 1954 Les Paul Custom

Gibson Introduce the Robby Krieger 1954 Les Paul Custom

(PRESS RELEASE): Robby Krieger’s 1954 Les Paul Custom became a constant writing companion, workhorse, performing partner, muse, and musical soul...

Read Article
Gibson Unveil the Bill Kelliher “Halcyon” Les Paul

Gibson Unveil the Bill Kelliher “Halcyon” Les Paul

(WEBSITE): You want to talk heavy? Bill Kelliher’s riffs with metal giants Mastodon could just about crush prehistoric beast that...

Read Article
Gibson introduces the redesigned RD Artist Model

Gibson introduces the redesigned RD Artist Model

As part of the legendary guitar brand's 120th Anniversary, Gibson has introduced a redesigned RD artists model heavily influenced by...

Read Article
Gibson Unveil New Anniversary Model, the Les Paul Traditional Flame

Gibson Unveil New Anniversary Model, the Les Paul Traditional Flame

The latest anniversary model unveiled as part of Gibson's 120th anniversary celebrations is the Les Paul Traditional Flame Top. Combining...

Read Article
Two Classic Designs in One; the ES-Les Paul

Two Classic Designs in One; the ES-Les Paul

Gibson brings together two iconic models to create the ES-Les Paul, the Gibson Les Paul combined with a Gibson ES-335 in...

Read Article
Gibson Unveil Limited Edition Explorer 120 Anniversary Model

Gibson Unveil Limited Edition Explorer 120 Anniversary Model

Gibson celebrates 120 years with '50s-inspired limited edition Explorer. Built using Grade-A mahogany for the body and featuring a 1-piece...

Read Article
Gibson Celebrate 120th Anniversary with SG Standard 120

Gibson Celebrate 120th Anniversary with SG Standard 120

In celebration of its 120th Anniversary, Gibson USA is rolling out a series of Limited Run guitars, all of which...

Read Article
Gibson Memphis Unveil ES-Les Paul Model

Gibson Memphis Unveil ES-Les Paul Model

The solidbody Les Paul Standard and semi-acoustic ES-335 are the two most influential electric guitars ever to hit their respective...

Read Article
Gibson Brands Unveil Gibson Custom's Tribute to Southern Rock 1959 Les Paul

Gibson Brands Unveil Gibson Custom's Tribute to Southern Rock 1959 Les Paul

Gibson  Custom pays homage to an influential genre of music whilst supporting a very worthy cause at the same time....

Read Article
Rich Robinson ES-335 Continuing Evolution of an Archtop Legend

Rich Robinson ES-335 Continuing Evolution of an Archtop Legend

As guitarist and founding member of the Black Crowes, Rich Robinson has earned nearly as solid a reputation for his...

Read Article
Gibson Brands Announces 'Inspiration Insurance'

Gibson Brands Announces 'Inspiration Insurance'

Gibson Brands launches the first-of-its-kind Memory Cable, which ensures musicians and songwriters never miss a brilliant creative moment again. With...

Read Article
Gibson Announce Debut of Woody Guthrie London House Model Southern Jumbo

Gibson Announce Debut of Woody Guthrie London House Model Southern Jumbo

Gibson Brands, Inc. has announced the debut of the 2014 Woody Guthrie London House Model Southern Jumbo, honouring the music...

Read Article
Gibson Brands Sponsor the Institute GuitarScholarship

Gibson Brands Sponsor the Institute GuitarScholarship

The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance has announced that Gibson Brands will be sponsoring two of eight scholarships available for...

Read Article
Gibson Reintroduce 'The Dutchburst'

Gibson Reintroduce 'The Dutchburst'

Gibson Custom first debuted its Collector’s Choice guitar #18, a stunning reproduction of the original 1960 Les Paul #0-1167 or...

Read Article
Gibson Reveal the Custom Billy F. Gibbons Goldtop

Gibson Reveal the Custom Billy F. Gibbons Goldtop

Gibson Reveal the Custom Billy F. Gibbons Goldtop - Gibson and ZZ Top veteran Billy F Gibbons join forces to...

Read Article
Gibson Releases the Les Paul Recording

Gibson Releases the Les Paul Recording

Gibson Releases the Les Paul Recording - A major part of Les Paul’s original vision for the solidbody electric guitar...

Read Article
Gibson Introduce Brendon Small Snow Falcon V

Gibson Introduce Brendon Small Snow Falcon V

Gibson Introduce Brendon Small Snow Falcon V - Even if the hardest-rocking mayhem merchants in the world of metal might...

Read Article
Gibson USA Goes with Cleartone Strings

Gibson USA Goes with Cleartone Strings

Gibson USA Goes with Cleartone Strings - Gibson USA electric guitars now come with factory-installed Cleartone strings. This move reunites...

Read Article
Gibson Releases 1961 Les Paul Tribute Model

Gibson Releases 1961 Les Paul Tribute Model

Gibson Releases 1961 Les Paul Tribute Model - In 1961, Gibson took a quantum leap forward in style and design...

Read Article
Gibson Introduce the Zakk Wylde Moderne of Doom

Gibson Introduce the Zakk Wylde Moderne of Doom

Gibson Introduce the Zakk Wylde Moderne of Doom - From his own band Black Label Society, to tours and recordings...

Read Article
Slash Signature Vermillion Les Paul

Slash Signature Vermillion Les Paul

Slash Signature Vermillion Les Paul - With his monster riffs, unquestioned talent, and pure-rock attitude, Slash emerged in 1987 with...

Read Article
Gibson Announces Rusty Anderson Signature ES-335

Gibson Announces Rusty Anderson Signature ES-335

Gibson Announces Rusty Anderson Signature ES-335 - As if working as Paul McCartney’s touring lead guitarist since 2001 wasn’t enough,...

Read Article
Gibson Reissue 90s-Era M-III

Gibson Reissue 90s-Era M-III

Gibson Reissue 90s-Era M-III - When Gibson introduced the M-III in 1991 it totally embodied the shred guitar,...

Read Article
Gibson Announces "Captain" Kirk Douglas SG Guitar

Gibson Announces Captain Kirk Douglas SG Guitar

Gibson Announces Captain Kirk Douglas SG Guitar - As the guitarist with The Roots, the beloved house band...

Read Article
Gibson Introduce Luther Dickinson ES-335 and Elliot Easton "Tikibird" Models

Gibson Introduce Luther Dickinson ES-335 and Elliot Easton Tikibird Models

Gibson Introduce Luther Dickinson ES-335 and Elliot Easton Tikibird Models - (press release) Gibson's recently announced Signature models...

Read Article
Gibson Release New Slash Signature Rosso Corsa Les Paul

Gibson Release New Slash Signature Rosso Corsa Les Paul

Slash Signature Rosso Corsa Les Paul  After saving big rock riffs from the electronic mainstream with Guns N' Roses, and...

Read Article
Scorpions Man and Gibson Unveil Rudolf Schenker Flying V

Scorpions Man and Gibson Unveil Rudolf Schenker Flying V

Scorpions Man and Gibson Unveil Rudolf Schenker Flying V - Gibson has unveiled the Rudolf Schenker Flying V,...

Read Article
Gibson Unveil 20th Anniversary 1965 Firebird VII Reissue

Gibson Unveil 20th Anniversary 1965 Firebird VII Reissue

Gibson Unveil 20th Anniversary 1965 Firebird VII Reissue - A 20th Anniversary 1965 Firebird VII Reissue has been...

Read Article
Gibson Unveils Sully Erna Les Paul Studio

Gibson Unveils Sully Erna Les Paul Studio

Gibson Unveils Sully Erna Les Paul Studio - Gibson Guitars introduces the Sully Erna Les Paul Studio, a...

Read Article
Gibson Announces 50th Anniversary Thunderbird Bass

Gibson Announces 50th Anniversary Thunderbird Bass

Gibson Announces 50th Anniversary Thunderbird Bass - As the fierce four-string partner to the Firebird guitar line introduced...

Read Article
Gibson Unveils 20th Anniversary Nighthawk Standard

Gibson Unveils 20th Anniversary Nighthawk Standard

Gibson Unveils 20th Anniversary Nighthawk Standard - A modern classic comes of age as Gibson celebrate two decades...

Read Article
Gibson Announces 20th Anniversary 1957 Les Paul Custom Black Beauty

Gibson Announces 20th Anniversary 1957 Les Paul Custom Black Beauty

Gibson Announces 20th Anniversary 1957 Les Paul Custom Black Beauty - To kick off a very limited edition...

Read Article
Gibson Announce Limited Run of Joe Walsh 1960 Les Paul Signature Guitars

Gibson Announce Limited Run of Joe Walsh 1960 Les Paul Signature Guitars

Gibson Announce Limited Run of Joe Walsh 1960 Les Paul Signature Guitars - Joe Walsh is a rare...

Read Article
Gibson Unveils Frank Zappa Roxy SG

Gibson Unveils Frank Zappa Roxy SG

Gibson Unveils Frank Zappa Roxy SG - Frank Zappa has long been hailed as one of the most...

Read Article
MUSIKMESSE: Gibson unveil Bill Kelliher Golden Axe Explorer

MUSIKMESSE: Gibson unveil Bill Kelliher Golden Axe Explorer

Gibson unveil Bill Kelliher Golden Axe Explorer - When your tone's as massive as that of Mastodon's Bill...

Read Article
Gibson Name Their Top Ten Riffs of The '80s

Gibson Name Their Top Ten Riffs of The '80s

Gibson Name Their Top Ten Riffs of The '80s - Gibson Guitars have listed their top 10...

Read Article
Gibson Adds '59 Les Paul To Collector's Choice Series

Gibson Adds '59 Les Paul To Collector's Choice Series

Gibson Custom has announced the release of Collector's Choice #6 1959 Les Paul #9-1918. This rare and highly prized...

Read Article
Tony Iommi Named Greatest Heavy Metal Guitarist by Gibson

Tony Iommi Named Greatest Heavy Metal Guitarist by Gibson

Tony Iommi Named Greatest Heavy Metal Guitarist by Gibson - Black Sabbath axeman, Tony Iommi has been...

Read Article
Gibson Announces The Les Paul Traditional 12-String

Gibson Announces The Les Paul Traditional 12-String

Gibson has a long and glorious history of crafting top-notch electric 12-string guitars, from the elegant ES-335-12 of 1965,...

Read Article
Whose Guitar? A History Of Famous Guitars

Whose Guitar? A History Of Famous Guitars

A: Steve Vai - EVO Ibanez Jem JEM7VWH Evo is the name Steve Vai gave to his primary...

Read Article
Gibson Releases 1959 Les Paul Factory Burst

Gibson Releases 1959 Les Paul Factory Burst

After recently announcing its 60th Anniversary Limited Goldtop Les Paul, based on the 1952 original model, Gibson has now...

Read Article
Summer NAMM 2012: Gibson Grace Potter Signature Flying V

Summer NAMM 2012: Gibson Grace Potter Signature Flying V

Along with her band the Nocturnals, Grace Potter channels the best of late '60s and early '70s rock into...

Read Article
Gibson J-200 M Trophy 75th Anniversary

Gibson J-200 M Trophy 75th Anniversary

The latest installment of Gibson Acoustic's Five Star Series celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the legendary King of...

Read Article
Joe Walsh Releases Video Tutorial Series In Conjunction With Gibson Guitars

Joe Walsh Releases Video Tutorial Series In Conjunction With Gibson Guitars

Legendary The Eagles guitarist, Joe Walsh, released his new solo album Analog Man earlier this month, and...

Read Article
Gibson Acoustic Releases a New Sheryl Crow Southern Jumbo Special Edition

Gibson Acoustic Releases a New Sheryl Crow Southern Jumbo Special Edition

Gibson Acoustic and Sheryl Crow announce their second collaboration with the release of the Sheryl Crow Southern Jumbo Special...

Read Article
Gibson Launch New Zakk Wylde Signature Vertigo Les Paul

Gibson Launch New Zakk Wylde Signature Vertigo Les Paul

Gibson has introduced an impressive new take on the classic Zakk Wylde 'Bullseye' Les Paul with their new 'Vertigo'...

Read Article
**Track Of The Day** B.B. King & Buddy Guy - I Can't Quit You Baby

**Track Of The Day** B.B. King & Buddy Guy - I Can't Quit You Baby

Like the Jeff Beck track we posted last friday, this video of B.B. King and Buddy Guy from their show together...

Read Article
Gibson Launch Ace Frehley 'Budokan' Les Paul Custom

Gibson Launch Ace Frehley 'Budokan' Les Paul Custom

The Ace Frehley Les Paul was one of a number of new axes unveiled at the Musikmesse Frankfurt 2012...

Read Article
Alice Cooper Band Members Talk About Their Dual-SG Sound

Alice Cooper Band Members Talk About Their Dual-SG Sound

For a period of the early 70's, there was no band in America as big as Alice Cooper. Despite...

Read Article