Lucille (guitar)

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B. B. King's Lucille

Lucille is the name B.B. King gave to his guitars. They were usually black Gibson guitars similar to the ES-335.

The story of Lucille

File:B.B. King con Lucille.jpg
B. B. King with Lucille.

In the winter of 1949, King played at a dance hall in Twist, Arkansas. The hall was heated by a barrel half-filled with burning kerosene, a fairly common practice at the time. During a performance, two men began to fight, knocking over the burning barrel and sending burning fuel across the floor. The hall burst into flames, and the building was evacuated.

Once outside, King realized that he had left his guitar inside so he went back into the burning building to retrieve his beloved $30 Gibson guitar. Two men died in the fire, and King learned the next day that they had been fighting over a woman named Lucille. King named that first guitar Lucille—and subsequently named every guitar he owned since, as a reminder never again to do something as stupid as run into a burning building or fight over women.[1][2]

B.B. King wrote a song called Lucille in which he talks about his guitar and how it got its name. The song was first released as part of Lucille and is included on the B. B. King Anthology 1962–1998 album.

Lucilles through King's career

Early Lucilles

King played guitars made by different manufacturers early in his career. He played a Fender Telecaster on most of his recordings with RPM Records (USA).[3] However, he is best known for playing variants of the Gibson ES-335.

Gibson Lucille

Gibson Lucille
Gibson Lucille
Manufacturer Gibson Guitar Corporation,[4] Epiphone[5]
Period 1980 – present
Body type Semi-hollow
Scale 24 3/4"/1 11/16"
Body Maple
Neck Maple
Fretboard Ebony
Bridge Tune-o-matic/TP-6
Pickup(s) 490R Alnico magnet humbucker/490T Alnico magnet humbucker
Colors available
Black and also available in Emerald, Amethyst, Sapphire Blue, Ruby and Diamond [6]

In 1980, Gibson Guitar Corporation launched the B. B. King Lucille model.[7] The most noticeable differences between the Lucille and the Gibson ES-355TD-SV on which it is based are the "Lucille" script on the headstock, the maple neck, and the lack of F-holes on the top. King requested that, to reduce feedback, there be no F-holes.[8]

Gibson made the B.B. King Standard model from 1980 to 1985. This model had chrome hardware and dot inlays instead of block inlays.[citation needed]

The Gibson subsidiary Epiphone markets a low-cost, foreign-made Lucille model based on the Gibson Lucille. Differences include a variation on the headstock inlays, a gloss finish and different pickups.[9]

Gibson Little Lucille

File:Gibson Little Lucille.jpg
Gibson Little Lucille

In 1999, Gibson launched the Little Lucille, a version of their Blueshawk guitar. It differed from the Blueshawk in having a Tune-o-matic bridge and a TP-6 stop tailpiece.[10] Gibson discontinued the Lucile and the Blueshawk, on which it was based.

The 80th Birthday Lucille

In 2005, for B.B. King's 80th birthday, Gibson made a special run of 80 Gibson Lucilles, referred to as the 80th Birthday Lucille. They presented the first prototype, which was engraved by Baron Technology, Inc, with design work by Scott Jeffrey, to King as a birthday present. King used the guitar as his main guitar until the summer of 2009, when it was stolen. On September 10, 2009, Eric Dahl unknowingly purchased the stolen instrument from a pawn shop in Las Vegas, and was contacted by a Gibson Artist Relations representative, who informed Dahl of the stolen status of the guitar. This Lucille was returned to King in late November 2009.[11]

also see


  1. Kerekes, Jim; O'Neill, Dennis (January 3, 1997). "B.B. King: Lucille Speaks". Archived from the original on November 16, 2011. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "B.B. King: Biography and Much More from". Retrieved May 16, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Burrows, Terry. "The Complete Book of the Guitar" p. 111 Carlton Books Limited, 1998 ISBN 1-85868-529-X
  5. "Epiphone B. B. King Lucille".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. " Gibson Memphis BB King".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. The GIBSON & Baldwin Player – B.B. King – Make the people happy
  9. "Epiphone BB King Lucille". June 24, 2008. Retrieved May 16, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Kling, Reno (February 16, 1999). "B.B. King embraces Gibson's 'Little Lucille'". Archived from the original on May 17, 2008. Retrieved May 16, 2011. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Dahl, Eric (December 3, 2009). "One Customer's Pawnshop Treasure". Archived from the original on August 13, 2011. Retrieved May 16, 2011. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Eric Dahl, B.B. King's Lucille and the Loves Before Her, Blue Book Publications, 2013, 96 pp, ISBN 978-1-936120-41-3.