'BB was a beacon for all of us who love this kind of music...' Born in the heart of the American south, legendary blues musician BB King has died at the age of 89. Eric Clapton was among a host of famous names paying tribute yesterday. Katie Archer and Robert Dex report.
The guitarist, who enjoyed hits with The Yardbirds and Cream before embarking on a successful solo career, posted a video tribute on Facebook to the man he called a "dear friend".
He said: "I want to thank him for all the inspiration and encouragement he gave me as a player over the years and the friendship we enjoyed.
"There is not a lot left to say because this music is almost a thing of the past now and there are not many left who play it in the pure way that BB did. He was a beacon for all of us who love this kind of music and I thank him from the bottom of my heart."
King's lawyer Brent Bryson said the musician, who suffered from diabetes, died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Las Vegas on May 14, where he had been receiving hospice care.
His style was an inspiration to scores of musicians and he mentored stars including Clapton as well as collaborating with U2 on the 1989 track When Love Comes To Town.
Ringo Starr tweeted: "God bless BB King, peace and love to his family, Ringo and Barbara."
Rapper Snoop Dogg posted a photo of King holding his trademark Gibson guitar, which he always named Lucille, on his Instagram page.
Actor Hugh Laurie, who himself released blues albums in 2011 and 2013, tweeted: "Oh God. BB King. Let the sad times roll."
Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora wrote: "My friend and legend BB King passed. I'm so so sad. He was so great to me. We've lost the King. My love and prayers to his family."
Lenny Kravitz tweeted: "BB, anyone could play a thousand notes and never say what you said in one. RIP BB King," while Bryan Adams added similar sentiments: "RIP BB King, one of the best blues guitarists ever, maybe the best. He could do more on one note than anyone."
Gene Simmons added: "Very sad.
BB King, rest in peace," while Charmed actress Alyssa Milano tweeted: "Rest with the angels, BB King."
British stars also added their condolences, with Homeland star David Harewood tweeting "RIP BB King. The thrill is gone. Legend."
The Walking Dead's David Morrissey added: "Sad news, goodbye to the great BB King," with a YouTube clip of one of his performances, and former Pop Idol winner Will Young wrote: "BB King - the most wonderful blues singer and guitarist. I suggest everyone gets one of his records to hear true soul and spirit."
Dire Straits frontman Mark Knop-fler said: "BB King was an enormous influence on me and for countless others. I first heard him on the record Live At The Regal at 15, and was struck by the sound and the emotion in his playing and singing and the effect of both on the audience.
"It was an honour to be a part of BB King and Friends, his 80th birthday recording of duets. BB will always be in my heart."
FROM STREET CORNERS TO STADIUMS BB King, who helped bring the blues to a worldwide audience, was born in the heart of the American south.
His life followed a similar trajectory to that of the music he played - moving from playing for change on street corners to packing out stadiums.
He was born Riley King on a cotton plantation in Mississippi, but moved to Memphis, Tennessee, as a young man intent on a career in music, where he worked as a DJ and musician and teamed up with long-time collaborator Bobby "Blue" Bland while honing his craft.
Throughout his career he updated his electric blues sound and worked with up-and-coming acts in jazz and rock but always stayed true to one thing - his guitar Lucille.
The instrument, a hollowbody Gibson guitar which became his trademark, was replaced many times over the years, but always kept the same name.
His influence can still be heard in the music of fans including Eric Clapton and U2, who teamed up with King to record When Love Comes To Town in 1988.
He continued to tour, often performing hundreds of shows a year, and always set aside a few weeks to play back in Mississippi.
Asked about the blues, he said: "I'm trying to get people to see that we are our brother's keeper. Red, white, black, brown or yellow, rich or poor, we all have the blues."
Eric Clapton: Inspired by BB KING >
BB King with his famous guitar, Lucille, on stage in Birmingham in 2009