B.B. King Remembered by Country Artists

King of the Blues Influenced Musicians Across All Genres

Although B.B. King’s direct involvement with country music was largely confined to jamming with performers such as Brad Paisley, Charlie Daniels and Keith Urban, the universal appeal and influence of his work is underscored by the outpouring of tributes by artists of all genres.

King, who popularized the blues in mainstream America and throughout the world, died Thursday (May 14) at his Las Vegas home following a lengthy illness. The 89-year-old singer and guitarist had been touring until October 2014 and recently announced he was under hospice care at his home.

Many guitarists, including Eric Clapton and the late Michael Bloomfield, cited King’s 1964 album, Live at the Regal, as a major inspiration for their devotion to the blues. King’s breakthrough to mainstream America began in 1969 with his signature song, “The Thrill Is Gone.”

In addition to his recordings, King was a formidable showman, as Kenny Rogers learned in the early ‘70s while enjoying massive success in pop music with his band, the First Edition.

“Somebody booked us together,” Rogers recalled to CMT.com in 2003. “And we couldn’t figure out who was gonna open the show and who was gonna close it. We didn’t really care, and he didn’t care. He said, ‘If it doesn’t matter to you, I’ll go on first because I can catch a late flight home after the show.’ We thought we had snookered this guy and we were gonna be the headliners.

“He did about an hour and a-half of ‘The Thrill Is Gone,’ and we felt like the Partridge Family when we came out. It was so wrong. It was just so wrong.”

Here are some of others who responded to the news of King’s death:

Brad Paisley

Charlie Daniels

Lee Brice

The Band Perry

The Swon Brothers

LeAnn Rimes

Clint Black

Calvin Gilbert has served as CMT.com’s managing editor since 2002. His background includes stints at the Nashville Banner, Radio & Records and Westwood One.