The Story Behind BB King’s Guitar: Lucille

The name Lucille holds a special place in the world of blues music, particularly when associated with the legendary musician BB King. Lucille is not just any ordinary guitar; it is a symbol of resilience, passion, and the unique bond between an artist and his instrument. This article delves into the fascinating story behind BB King’s guitar, Lucille, exploring its origins, significance, and the remarkable journey it took alongside one of the greatest blues musicians of all time.

The Birth of Lucille

The story of Lucille begins in the winter of 1949 when BB King found himself performing at a dance hall in Twist, Arkansas. The hall was heated by a burning kerosene barrel placed in the middle of the dance floor, a common practice at the time. During one of his performances, a fight broke out among two men, causing the barrel to topple over and engulf the hall in flames. As everyone hurriedly evacuated, BB King realized that he had left his guitar, an inexpensive, small-bodied Gibson L-30 archtop, inside the burning building.

The following day, BB King learned that the fight had erupted over a woman named Lucille, who worked at the dance hall. In a moment of reflection, BB King decided to name his guitar Lucille as a constant reminder never to engage in such reckless behavior or risk his life for material possessions. This event marked the birth of Lucille and the beginning of a profound connection between BB King and his guitars.

The Love for Lucille

BB King’s affection for Lucille was unparalleled. From that point forward, he named every guitar he owned Lucille, signifying his commitment to never repeat the mistakes of that fateful day. Lucille became an extension of his soul, a trusted companion that allowed him to express his deepest emotions through music.

The Iconic Gibson Lucille

The Lucille guitar, as widely recognized, is a black-with-gold-hardware Gibson ES-355–style guitar. BB King was particularly drawn to Gibson guitars of the semi-hollow “ES” variety, such as the ES-335 and ES-355 models. The Gibson Lucille signature model was officially launched in 1980, paying homage to BB King’s deep connection with his instrument.

The Gibson Lucille signature model featured a glossy black finish, a tortoiseshell scratchplate, and unique specifications requested by BB King himself. Notably, the guitar had no f-holes, a maple neck, stereo wiring, and a Varitone switch, which allowed BB King to achieve a wide range of tones and expressiveness in his playing style.

BB King played various iterations of the Gibson Lucille signature model from 1980 until his passing in 2015. Each guitar bore the name Lucille, representing the enduring bond between the musician and his instrument.

Conclusion

The story of Lucille intertwines with the remarkable journey of BB King, a testament to the power of music and the deep connection between an artist and his guitar. Lucille represents BB King’s resilience, his commitment to never repeat past mistakes, and his unwavering passion for creating soulful blues music.

Through his love and dedication to Lucille, BB King became an icon, influencing generations of musicians and leaving behind a lasting legacy. Lucille will forever remain an emblem of the remarkable talent and indomitable spirit of one of the greatest blues guitarists of all time.

FAQs

What is the story behind BB King’s guitar, Lucille?

The story behind BB King’s guitar, Lucille, dates back to a performance at a dance hall in Twist, Arkansas in 1949. During a fight that broke out, a burning kerosene barrel was knocked over, engulfing the hall in flames. BB King risked his life to retrieve his guitar from the burning building and later learned that the fight had started over a woman named Lucille. In honor of that incident, BB King named his guitar Lucille as a reminder never to engage in such reckless behavior again.

What type of guitar is Lucille?



Lucille is widely recognized as a black-with-gold-hardware Gibson ES-355–style guitar. BB King was particularly drawn to Gibson guitars of the semi-hollow “ES” variety, such as the ES-335 and ES-355 models.

Did BB King name all his guitars Lucille?

Yes, BB King named every guitar he owned Lucille. The name Lucille symbolized his commitment to avoid repeating past mistakes and was a testament to the deep bond between the musician and his instrument.

What are the unique features of the Gibson Lucille signature model?

The Gibson Lucille signature model, launched in 1980, featured a glossy black finish, a tortoiseshell scratchplate, and unique specifications requested by BB King. These specifications included no f-holes, a maple neck, stereo wiring, and a Varitone switch, which allowed BB King to achieve a wide range of tones and expressiveness in his playing style.

How long did BB King play the Gibson Lucille?

BB King played various versions of the Gibson Lucille signature model from 1980 until his death in 2015. Lucille remained a constant companion throughout his career, and he relied on the guitar to create his iconic blues sound.

What impact did Lucille have on BB King’s career?



Lucille played a significant role in BB King’s career. The guitar became synonymous with his distinctive sound and style, contributing to his status as one of the greatest blues guitarists of all time. Lucille allowed BB King to express his deepest emotions through music and became an integral part of his legacy.

Are there any songs written about Lucille?

BB King wrote a song called “Lucille” in which he talks about his guitar and how it got its name. The song was first released on the album “Lucille” and is included on the B.B. King Anthology 1962–1998 album. Additionally, BB King recorded a track called “My Lucille,” which also references his guitar. The song was written by Ira Newborn and was part of the music for the film “Into the Night.”

What is the significance of Lucille in the world of blues music?

Lucille holds great significance in the world of blues music. It represents BB King’s resilience, his unwavering passion for creating soulful blues, and the enduring bond between an artist and his instrument. Lucille has become an emblem of BB King’s talent and influence, leaving a lasting impact on generations of musicians and fans alike.