Prior to the Memphis Grizzlies’ Game 6 matchup against the Golden State Warriors Friday, the team paid tribute to blues legend B.B. King, who passed away the previous night. King had an incredible impact on the city of Memphis and Beale Street since first arriving in the Tennessee city in the early Forties. When news of King’s failing health was revealed, Memphis declared May 12th in the city as “B.B. King Day.”
“Born in Mississippi, B.B. King took Memphis to make his name and hone his craft on Beale Street,” the Grizzlies’ public address announcer told the crowd. “Throughout a career that spanned eight decades, he would go on and share his music with the world, leaving an indelible mark not only on blues music and American culture but on the global music community. In the spirit of music that he personified – all heart, soul and blues – we offer not a moment of silence but ask you to join us in a moment of song in honor of our friend B.B. King.”
B.B. King was among the artists that helped Memphis and Beale Street become as synonymous with the blues as Nashville is with country music. King was initially given the moniker “Beale Street Blues Boy,” and then “Blues Boy,” which ultimately gave the bluesman his trademark initials.
Beale Street was the home of King’s Blues Boy Kingdom record label and the site of the first B.B. King’s Blues Club. The King of the Blues also has a commemorative brass note on the Beale Street Wall of Fame, and King was among the inaugural inductees into the Blues Hall of Fame located in Memphis.
“It’s a real downer and I’m not the same because I lost my best friend,” Ruby Wilson, “the Queen of Beale Street,” told Memphis’ Action News 5. “A legend in my own time and he helped me come a long ways from where I was to where I am now. B.B. is and always will be a wonderful man first and then a great musician and beautiful entertainer who made the world feel good.”
Following King’s death, tributes continue to pour in for the legendary bluesman, including remembrances from Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, Trey Anastasio, Billy Gibbons, Derek Trucks and President Barack Obama. U2 also paid homage to their “When Loves Comes to Town” collaborator during the band’s Vancouver concert Friday night.