B.B. King Signature Guitars
When you talk about the blues, you’re invariably going to bring up the name B.B. King at some point. This legendary artist has strummed his way through countless hearts over a career that spanned decades, creating music that resonates with raw emotion and unparalleled mastery. But what’s a king without his crown? And in the world of music, a musician’s instrument can often be seen as their crown.
For B.B. King, his crown was his beloved guitar, affectionately named “Lucille”. Let’s dive deep into the relationship between the King of Blues and his iconic guitars, notably the Epiphone B.B. King Lucille and the Gibson Custom B.B. King Lucille Legacy.
B.B. King Signature Guitars
The Man Behind the Strings: B.B. King
Before diving into the intricacies of the guitars, it’s essential to familiarize ourselves with the genius who brought them to life. Riley B. King, professionally known as B.B. King, was an American blues singer, guitarist, songwriter, and record producer. Introduced into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, King is undoubtedly one of the most influential blues musicians of all time.
His early life was riddled with challenges. Born on a cotton plantation in Mississippi, he started life with the barest of essentials. Music became an escape for him, and as he grew, he began playing on street corners for dimes. From there, it was a meteoric rise. His distinct style of playing, characterized by vibrant single-string runs, made him stand out. He didn’t just play the blues; he felt it, lived it, and breathed it.
The story behind naming his guitar “Lucille” is both intriguing and reflective of King’s connection to his instrument. In the winter of 1949, during a performance in Arkansas, two men started a fight that knocked over a kerosene stove, setting the hall ablaze. After evacuating, King realized he left his guitar inside and rushed back in to retrieve it. He later found out that the two men were fighting over a woman named Lucille. To remind himself never to do something that foolish and to avoid fights, especially over women, he named every guitar he owned afterward, Lucille.
1. Epiphone B.B. King Lucille
The Epiphone B.B. King Lucille is one of the most renowned guitars out there. An accessible version of the Gibson Lucille, it embodies the spirit and design of B.B. King’s personal guitar but at a fraction of the price, making it an ideal choice for many budding blues artists and fans.
- Design: Semi-hollow body without the f-holes. This was intentional to reduce feedback, which B.B. King wasn’t a fan of.
- Pickups: Equipped with two Alnico Classic Humbuckers that produce that deep, rich tone synonymous with the blues.
- Neck: It comes with a glued-in maple neck with a SlimTaper “D” profile, allowing ease of playability.
- Bridge: The TP-6 fine-tuning tailpiece enables the artist to get their strings in perfect tune.
- Vari-A-Tone: Perhaps the most distinctive feature of this model. The Vari-Tone system allows the player to switch between different capacitors, offering a range of tonal palettes. This mimics the original design B.B. King had on his Gibson Lucille.
For those who are looking to find that B.B. King sound without breaking the bank, the Epiphone version of Lucille is a fantastic option. It offers a lot of the bells and whistles of its more expensive counterpart but at a more accessible price point.
EPIPHONE B.B. KING LUCILLE Specification table
|Body Material||5-ply Maple/Poplar|
|Bridge||Epiphone LockTone Tune-O-Matic|
|Tuners||Grover Rotomatic with Keystone Buttons|
|Thickness||1st Fret: 0.84” (21.3mm) – 12th Fret: 0.94” (23.9mm)|
|Frets||22 Medium Jumbo|
|Nut Width||43mm (1.693”)|
|Bridge Pickup||Alnico Classic PRO (Humbucker / Passive)|
|Neck Pickup||Alnico Classic PRO (Humbucker / Passive)|
2. Gibson Custom B.B. King Lucille Legacy
When we talk about the Gibson Custom B.B. King Lucille Legacy, we’re diving deep into luxury and legacy. This is the crown jewel, a guitar that has been meticulously designed to mirror the personal modifications and specifications B.B. King himself preferred.
- Design: Like the Epiphone, this Gibson variant also sports a semi-hollow body without the f-holes to curtail feedback. The build quality is, of course, top-tier with superior craftsmanship evident in every curve and joint.
- Pickups: This model is armed with two humbucking pickups, capturing the essence of B.B. King’s signature tone.
- Neck: Crafted from one piece of mahogany, the neck on the Gibson Custom B.B. King Lucille Legacy offers both durability and comfort. Its profile is designed to ensure smooth transitions and easy access to higher frets, which is a boon for those soulful blues solos.
- Bridge: The Tune-O-Matic bridge paired with the TP-6 tailpiece allows not only for easy string adjustments but also ensures excellent sustain and tone stability.
- Vari-A-Tone: Retaining this signature feature, the Vari-Tone switch on the Gibson Custom B.B. King Lucille Legacy offers even more tonal possibilities. Combined with the superior electronics and build quality, this feature can genuinely let the artist shape their sound, from the crisp bright tones to the deep mellow resonances.
- Finish and Aesthetics: One cannot simply discuss the Gibson Custom B.B. King Lucille Legacy without admiring its aesthetics. With its high gloss finish, the guitar is nothing short of a visual masterpiece. The inlay on the headstock, the gold hardware, and the signature of B.B. King himself add a touch of elegance and authenticity to the instrument.
Gibson Custom B.B. King Lucille Legacy Specification table
|Made in||United States|
|Body Material||3-Ply Maple/Poplar/Maple|
|Bridge||TP-6 with Fine Tuners|
|Decoration||Mother of Pearl Split Block|
|Nut Width||42.9mm (1.688”)|
|Bridge Pickup||Custombucker (Humbucker / Passive)|
|Neck Pickup||Custombucker (Humbucker / Passive)|
Which One To Choose?
The million-dollar question for many is: which one to go for? Both guitars, while echoing the legacy of B.B. King, serve different audiences.
The Epiphone B.B. King Lucille is perfect for those who are starting their blues journey or are on a budget. It gives the player a taste of the legend without a hefty price tag. It’s reliable, sounds fantastic, and carries with it the spirit of Lucille. For many hobbyists and semi-professionals, this might be the ideal choice.
On the other hand, The Gibson Custom B.B. King Lucille Legacy is for the purists, the professionals, and the collectors. It’s an investment, not just in terms of money but in terms of musical heritage. Owning one is like having a piece of history, a segment of the soul of B.B. King. If you’re a seasoned professional or a collector, then this guitar is undoubtedly worth considering.
B.B. King once said, “The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.” The legacy he left behind, both in terms of his music and his guitars, is a testament to this sentiment. The Epiphone B.B. King Lucille and the Gibson Custom B.B. King Lucille Legacy aren’t just instruments; they are embodiments of a journey, of passion, and of the blues.
Choosing between them isn’t just a matter of budget or skill level. It’s about understanding where you are in your musical journey and where you want to go. Whether you’re strumming chords in your bedroom or electrifying a stage, remember that every note you play is a tribute to legends like B.B. King. So, pick up that guitar, and let the blues speak.