The secrets behind B.B. King’s guitar tone on The Thrill Is Gone

B.B. King
(Image credit: Gai Terrell/Redferns)

I recently read an online article that described B.B. King’s tone as “warm and mellow”. To me, that was the equivalent of saying Eddie Van Halen played great power chords, as it only tells a very small fraction of the story and almost completely ignores the more important details.

Yes, B.B. King’s tone could sometimes be “warm” and “mellow”, but more often it was bright, brilliant, aggressive, percussive, voice-like, honking and dynamic. For example, listen to any version of King’s best-known song, The Thrill Is Gone – warm and mellow are probably the last adjectives that come to mind when one hears his punchy, metallic, biting tone.

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.