cover image King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King

King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King

Daniel de Vise. Atlantic Monthly, $30 (496p) ISBN 978-0-8021-5805-5

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist De Vise (The Comeback) amply demonstrates his masterful storytelling and research skills in this definitive look at legendary blues musician B.B. King (1925–2015). Informed by his conversations with “dozens of surviving friends and relatives, bandmates and producers,” De Vise provides an intimate portrait of a cultural luminary “whose achievements transcended his genre.” Born into poverty on a Mississippi plantation in 1925, King fell in love with music at a young age, when the reverend of his church taught him the three guitar chords at the center of every blues song he would ever perform. In 1946, he left his life as a sharecropper and tractor driver to perform in Memphis, where he became a regional star before signing with a talent agent and touring internationally for more than 50 years. But even after finding fame, De Vise recounts, King endured his fair share of trials, including a fatal accident involving his tour bus that killed a truck driver, and money disputes with his business manager. These hardships, however, only serve to underscore the tenacity that led King to become “the greatest living guitarist” alive and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Even readers who aren’t fans of the blues will be engrossed by this nuanced look at an American icon. Agent: Deborah Grosvenor, Grosvenor Literary Agency. (Oct.)