The breakout country star and blues hotshot opened the performance, trading vocals, and, more importantly, solos, before Raitt sidled in between them with a devastating slide-guitar run. The trio then each sang a line of the song’s final verse and made one last trip across the fretboard to bring “The Thrill is Gone” to a mournful close.
Per the Los Angeles Times, Stapleton — country’s breakout star of 2015 — was tapped for the tribute after Grammy telecast executive producer Ken Ehrlich saw a video of the singer covering “The Thrill is Gone” on YouTube. Raitt was then added to the performance at Stapleton’s suggestion.
King died last May at the age of 89. In a tribute penned for Rolling Stone, Raitt summed up the musician’s signature guitar style, which left an indelible mark across the musical spectrum: “Every great blues guitarist has his own style. But with B.B., it was about his vibrato, his phrasing and the licks he chose — and his restraint. It was all about what he played and what he didn’t play. He was sweet and eloquent in his playing, but when he turned it on, he could be fierce.”