THIRTEEN’s American Masters Tells the Story of Legendary Bluesman B.B. King During Black History Month on PBS

B.B. King: The Life of Riley Premieres Nationally Friday, February 12 at 9 p.m. (check local listings)

Features interviews with Bono, Eric Clapton, Aaron Neville, John Mayer, Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, Ringo Starr, and more

B.B. King, born Riley B. King, was one of the most influential and celebrated blues musicians of all time. From his roots as a sharecropper’s son, working in the cotton fields of Mississippi, he rose to become a living legend — the most renowned blues singer, songwriter, musician, and record producer of the past 40 years — earning the moniker ‘King of the Blues‘. King’s story of struggle and triumph is chronicled in American Masters: B.B. King: The Life of Riley, premiering nationwide during Black History Month on Friday, February 12 at 9 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listing). Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman narrates and appears in the film.

 B.B. King performs on stage at the Royal Albert Hall. Photo: Kevin Nixon

B.B. King performing on stage at the Royal Albert Hall. Photo: Kevin Nixon

Made with the full cooperation of The B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola, Mississippi, B.B. King: The Life of Riley was filmed in locations across America, as well as the United Kingdom. Award-winning Producer/Director Jon Brewer worked on the film with King for two years. Filming was completed shortly before King passed on May 14, 2015.

The bio-doc explores King’s challenging life and career through candid interviews with the man himself, his family, longtime friends, and fellow music contemporaries such as Bono, George Benson, Eric Clapton, Aaron Neville, John Mayer, Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, Ringo Starr, Johnny Winter, and more.

Born September 16, 1925 on a plantation in Itta Bena, Mississippi, near Indianola, King was raised by his maternal grandmother, Elnora Farr in nearby Kilmichael. After she died, his father brought him to live in Lexington. There, for the first time, King experienced segregation. A mob hung a black boy and dragged him behind a car to the courthouse in Lexington. King witnessed the boy being dragged; it was an image he would never forget. Like so many blacks of his generation, King was subjected to bigotry, racism, hatred and denial. But he never allowed it to destroy his spirit or his music.

King candidly reminisces about memorable people in his life such as preacher Archie Fair, the first person he heard play an electric guitar; cousin Bukka White, who taught him about being a blues singer; the musical influence of bluesman T-Bone Walker and French jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt; his stint as a disc jockey where his radio names (Beale Street Blues Boy and Blues Boy King) were eventually shortened to B.B. King; and how and why he came to name his guitars Lucille. A bittersweet moment in the film is King’s reflection on marriage. King had two wives, Martha Lee Denton, and then Sue Carol Hall. The failures of each marriage were attributed to King’s relentless touring schedule.

Rare archival footage is interspersed throughout the film, including his 1968 performance at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West where he was billed with some of the hottest rock stars, who idolized him and helped to introduce him to a young white audience.

Among the highlights from the film is footage of King’s collaboration with Bono, where King reveals that he “does not do chords,” and the story behind King and Eric Clapton‘s recording of Riding with the King. Though he made an exception for Clapton, King admits he doesn’t like to play acoustic guitar.

The ‘King of Blues,’ who delighted audiences around the world with such classic R&B hits as Three O’ Clock Blues, Paying The Cost To Be The Boss, Every Day I Have The Blues, and of course his most popular cross over hit, The Thrill Is Gone, died at age 89. The city of Memphis, where he had performed so many times, held a funeral procession for him down Beale Street, with a brass band marching in front of the hearse, playing When the Saints Go Marching In.

Play the best that I can. Reach as many people as you can, as many countries,” says King. “In other words, I’d like the whole world to be able to hear B.B. King sing and play the blues.

B.B. King became America’s most recognizable and influential blues musician,” says Michael Kantor, executive producer of American Masters. “The thrill isn’t really gone yet – I think anyone who sees this film will be thrilled and inspired by this legendary artist.”

"American Masters," THIRTEEN's award-winning biography series, explores the lives and creative journeys of America's most enduring artistic and cultural giants. With insight and originality, the series illuminates the extraordinary mosaic of our nation's landscape, heritage and traditions. Watch full episodes and more at http://pbs.org/americanmasters. (PRNewsFoto/WNET)

“American Masters,” THIRTEEN’s award-winning biography series, explores the lives and creative journeys of America’s most enduring artistic and cultural giants. With insight and originality, the series illuminates the extraordinary mosaic of our nation’s landscape, heritage and traditions. Watch full episodes and more at http://pbs.org/americanmasters. (PRNewsFoto/WNET)

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Thirteen’s American Masters Celebrates 30 Years of Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking in 2016

Thirteen‘s American Masters has announced the preliminary lineup for its 30th anniversary season on PBS featuring Mike Nichols, B.B. King, Carole King, Fats Domino, Loretta Lynn, Janis Joplin, The Highwaymen, Norman Lear and Maya Angelou. American Masters, THIRTEEN’s award-winning biography series, celebrates our arts and culture. Awards include 70 Emmy nominations and 28 awards — 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series since 1999 and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 12 Peabody Awards; three Grammys; an Oscar; two Producers Guild Awards for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television; and the 2012 IDA Award for Best Continuing Series.

"American Masters," THIRTEEN's award-winning biography series, explores the lives and creative journeys of America's most enduring artistic and cultural giants. With insight and originality, the series illuminates the extraordinary mosaic of our nation's landscape, heritage and traditions. Watch full episodes and more at http://pbs.org/americanmasters. (PRNewsFoto/WNET)

“American Masters,” THIRTEEN’s award-winning biography series, explores the lives and creative journeys of America’s most enduring artistic and cultural giants. With insight and originality, the series illuminates the extraordinary mosaic of our nation’s landscape, heritage and traditions. Watch full episodes and more at http://pbs.org/americanmasters. (PRNewsFoto/WNET)

Launched in 1986, the series is the gold standard for documentary film profiles, accruing widespread critical acclaim. This prolific series has produced an exceptional library*, bringing unique originality and perspective to illuminate the creative journeys of our most enduring writers, musicians, visual and performing artists, dramatists, filmmakers and those who have left an indelible impression on our cultural landscape. Balancing a broad and diverse cast of characters and artistic approaches, while preserving historical authenticity and intellectual integrity, these portraits reveal the style and substance of each subject.AboutSeries

The series’ individually crafted films reflect the specific attention deserved by American Masters subjects, including such great talents as Arthur Miller (the series’ first subject), Georgia O’Keeffe, James Baldwin, Diego Rivera, Martha Graham, F. Scott Fitzgerald, I.M. Pei, Leonard Bernstein, Sidney Poitier, Judy Garland, John James Audubon, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Johnny Carson, Zora Neale Hurston, Albert Einstein, Rod Serling, Bill T. Jones, Lucille Ball, Paul Simon, Richard Avedon, John Cassavetes, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Gehry, Woody Guthrie, Jimi Hendrix, Edward Curtis, Julia Child, Walter Cronkite, Woody Allen, and Billie Jean King, as well as influential cultural institutions and eras such as the Actor’s Studio, the Algonquin Round Table, the Negro Ensemble Company, the Juilliard School, 60 Minutes, the Joffrey Ballet, and a century of Chinese American cinematic history in Hollywood Chinese.

Fascinating in their individuality as well as in the whole, American Masters has become a cultural legacy in its own right, producing and presenting the extraordinary mosaic of our creative heritage and broadening viewer appreciation of our nation’s traditions and character. An artist’s work can capture, reflect and even shape a society’s experience. Without art, we would lack an identity, a soul and a voice. American Masters exists to give life to that voice.

For this celebratory 30th anniversary season, the offerings are no less fascinating. The season opens with Mike Nichols and concludes with Maya Angelou. How can it get any better than that?

Mike Nichols: American MastersMike-Nichols_end-frame_KEY-ART-FINAL

Season 30 premiere: Friday, January 29 at 9 p.m. Meet one of America’s late, great directors Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Angels in America), who discusses his life and 50-year artistic career, from the comedy duo Nichols and May to his final film, Charlie Wilson’s War. Winner of an Oscar, a Grammy, four Emmys, nine Tonys, three BAFTAs and many other awards, director, actor, writer, producer and comedian Mike Nichols (November 6, 1931 – November 19, 2014) was an artistic trailblazer. As the legendary comedy duo Nichols and May, Nichols and his partner Elaine May revolutionized comedy in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Now, May has directed the first documentary about her former partner, Mike Nichols: American Masters, premiering Friday, January 29, 2016, at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) to launch the 30th anniversary season of THIRTEEN’s American Masters series.

With charm and wit, Nichols discusses his life and 50-year career as a performer and director. Mike Nichols: American Masters features new interviews with his friends and colleagues, including Meryl Streep, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Alec Baldwin, Paul Simon, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Bob Balaban, Tony Kushner, Neil Simon, Frank Langella, James L. Brooks and many others, conducted by film, TV and theater producer Julian Schlossberg (Bullets Over Broadway, American Masters — Nichols & May: Take Two, American Masters: The Lives of Lillian Hellman). Schlossberg also conducted an exclusive interview with Nichols for the film. The documentary features insights and highlights from Nichols’ acclaimed films, including The Graduate, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Catch 22, Silkwood, Biloxi Blues, Working Girl, Angels In America and Charlie Wilson’s War, as well as his theatrical productions Barefoot in the Park, Luv and The Odd Couple. Directed by Elaine May. Produced by Julian Schlossberg.

American Masters: B.B. King: The Life of Riley

Photo Credit: B.B. King performs on stage at the Royal Albert Hall. Photo: Kevin Nixon

Photo Credit: B.B. King performs on stage at the Royal Albert Hall. Photo: Kevin Nixon

Friday, February 12 at 9 p.m. in honor of Black History Month. Explore B.B. King’s challenging life and career through candid interviews with the “King of the Blues” filmed shortly before his death and fellow music stars, including Bono, Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, John Mayer, and Ringo Starr, and more.

American Masters — Carole King: Natural Woman

Carole King. Photo: Joseph Sinnott / ©2015 THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC. All rights reserved.

Carole King. Photo: Joseph Sinnott / ©2015 THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 19 at 9 p.m. Delve into the hit singer-songwriter’s life and career from 1960s New York to the music mecca of 70s LA to the present. Carole King joins collaborators and family in new interviews, while rare home movies, performances and photos complete the tapestry. The year 2016 marks the 45th anniversary of King’s landmark, four-time Grammy-winning album Tapestry, which was released February 10, 1971.

American Masters: Fats Domino and the Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll

Singer-songwriter Fats Domino (b. Feb. 26, 1928), 1970. Photo: Getty Images.

Singer-songwriter Fats Domino (b. Feb. 26, 1928), 1970. Photo: Getty Images.

Friday, February 26 at 10 p.m. in honor of Black History Month and Fats Domino’s birthday. Discover how Fats Domino’s brand of New Orleans rhythm and blues became rock ‘n’ roll. As popular in the 1950s as Elvis Presley, Domino suffered degradations in the pre-Civil Rights South and aided integration through his influential music.

American Masters — Loretta Lynn: Still a Mountain Girl

Loretta Lynn. Photo: David McClister

Loretta Lynn. Photo: David McClister

Friday, March 4 at 9 p.m. in honor of Women’s History Month. Explore the country legend’s hard-fought road to stardom. From her Appalachian roots to the Oscar-winning biopic of her life, Coal Miner’s Daughter, Loretta Lynn struggled to balance family and her music career and is still going strong after more than 50 years. The documentary premieres the same day Lynn’s first new studio album in over 10 years, Full Circle (Legacy Recordings), is released. Continue reading

Las Vegas Festival “Big Blues Bender” Announces Festival Lineup: B.B. King, George Thorogood, Blind Boys of Alabama, Tab Benoit & More!

The Inaugural Big Blues Bender (Sep 25-29, 2014) at the Riviera Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, NV features a Grammy winning line-up of music superstars including legendary B.B. King and many more. The Big Blues Bender line-up includes: B.B. King, George Thorogood & the Destroyers, Blind Boys of Alabama, Buckwheat Zydeco, Tab Benoit, Charlie Musslewhite, Ana Popovic, Coco Montoya, The Holmes Brothers, Walter Trout, Tommy Castro, Otis Taylor, Walter Wolfman Washington, Trampled, Under Foot, Carolyn Wonderland,Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers, Mark Hummel, Little Charlie, Anson Funderburgh, Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials, Guitar Shorty, Popa Chubby, Rick Estrin & the Nightcats, The Bender Brass (featuring: Jimmy Carpenter) and more. Event packages and VIP experiences are on sale now.

BB King headlines THE BIG BLUES BENDER, Las Vegas's World Class Blues Festival! Sept 25-29, 2014 ON SALE NOW @  bigbluesbender.com.  (PRNewsFoto/Big Blues Bender)

BB King headlines THE BIG BLUES BENDER, Las Vegas’s World Class Blues Festival! Sept 25-29, 2014 ON SALE NOW @ bigbluesbender.com. (PRNewsFoto/Big Blues Bender)

Making one of their few festival appearances, George Thorogood & the Destroyers will be celebrating their 40th anniversary rocking the blues. The Blind Boys of Alabama, Buckwheat Zydeco, Tab Benoit, Charlie Musslewhite, Ana Popovic and Coco Montoya are also among the blues heavyweights performing at the inaugural event. The A-list line-up features the greatest blues, funk, rock & roll legends on tour today. “With a lineup like this on the Las Vegas strip, we want people to really enjoy a first-class experience,” explains co-producer Doug Meckler. “The Riviera was the stomping ground of the Rat Pack, so it’s going to be a real treat to hear these amazing artists play in a venue as infamous as the newly re-opened Versailles room.”

The festival will be stepping up productions at the Riviera Hotel & Casino, bringing multiple high quality sound systems to rock the blues over four days. The Riviera offers a classic Vegas feel with an array of dining options and the best part – your room is just an elevator ride away! “We want blues fans from across the world to ‘come feel the love,'” says AJ Gross, founder and co-producer. “Vegas is a place to let your hair down and go on a Bender…” Festival packages starting at $599 per person are available on the Big Blues Bender Website including the ‘Bender Extender,’ which encourages attendees to stay a few days longer and the ‘Big Daddy Baller,’ offering a full VIP experience including meet & greets, a dedicated concierge, hospitality areas, pool cabanas near the stage and more.

Check out the entire Big Blues Bender line up and other event info at http://www.BigBluesBender.com