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B.B. King’s Greatest Country Music Moments

From the blues legend’s duet with George Jones to a jam with Keith Urban, a blues legend’s history in Nashville

Willie Nelson, B.B. King

B.B. King performed with country artists ranging from Willie Nelson to Keith Urban in his storied career.

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Maybe it was his Mississippi roots, or perhaps it was his way with a lyric, but whatever the reason, B.B. King, who died Thursday at age 89, had a certain affinity for country music and country songwriting. Over his career, he played with country pickers from Willie Nelson to Marty Stuart, and sang with the likes of George Jones and Sheryl Crow — always with dazzling results. Here, we look at the seven greatest country moments from the bluesman's wildly influential career. 

B.B. King

Marty Stuart, “Confessin’ the Blues”

Marty Stuart may be country's preeminent historian, but the ascot-favoring picker sure knows how to moan the blues. Yet Stuart and King shared more than just a musical kinship — both men were born in Mississippi. And you can hear that familiarity all through "Confessin' the Blues," Stuart's contribution to King's 1997 Deuces Wild album. While Stuart normally can't play a note that doesn't evoke country and bluegrass, here, inspired by King, he effortlessly draws upon the swampy sounds of his youth, pushing along this Jay McShann number (which was also covered by the Rolling Stones) with ample grease.

B.B. King

Sheryl Crow, “Need Your Love So Bad”

To mark his 80th birthday, the bluesman enlisted some of his likeminded pals for an album of duets, B.B. King & Friends: 80. While Sheryl Crow hadn't officially "gone country" by then, her soulful voice held a hint of the quaver that she'd employ on her underrated 2013 LP Feels Like Home. Here, it complements King's husky growl, making for one of the album's most aching collaborations. "Need Your Love So Bad," dating back to the Fifties, was an oft-covered blues song, but in the hands of King and Crow it rings with a renewed urgency.

B.B. King Farm Aid

Farm Aid, “How Blue Can You Get”

With performances by Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Loretta Lynn and Merle Haggard, the kickoff Farm Aid concert in 1985 focused heavily on country music. That didn't stop B.B. King from reminding everyone that country and blues music share the same southern roots, though, making his point not with any sort of soapbox speech, but with a joyous performance of "How Blue Can You Get." He even replaces a broken guitar string halfway through the song, all the while singing the formal trousers off his 1964 hit.