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B.B. King’s childhood acoustic parlor guitar goes up for auction

American singer, songwriter and guitarist B.B. King (1925-2015) plays a Gibson ES-355 guitar live on stage at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in New Orleans, United States on 15 April 1978.
(Image credit: David Redfern/Redferns)

The first ever acoustic guitar owned by blues icon B.B. King is being sold at auction later this month.

The auctioneers, Palm Beach Private Capital LLC, say the instrument is an elongated parlor guitar and retains three “original gut” strings. 

Sadly, there’s very little in the way of information about the guitar’s condition or playability.

The instrument, which was built in the 1920s, was reportedly given to ‘the king of the blues’ when he was just six years old, in 1931. 

At this point, B.B. King would have still been known by his birth name Riley B. King and was being raised by his maternal grandmother near Indianola, Mississippi. 

The guitar was reportedly a gift from Bukka White, the first cousin of King’s mother and a bluesman himself.

Although King is said to have been taught his first chords by his local minister (who played a Silvertone guitar in his services), White is thought to have been a key influence on the young guitarist. 

Indeed, White made the journey to Memphis long before King and was the first name King looked up when he arrived in the city in 1946.

We've seen no predictions on the closing price yet, but suffice to say it'll go for more than it cost either King or White. Let's hope it winds up in the hands of a public-spirited collector.

Potential buyers are being invited to contact the auctioneers from July 26 at info@palmbeachprivatecapitalLLC.com in order to place their bids. The auction will then close on July 30.

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Matt is a freelance journalist who has spent the last decade interviewing musicians for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk (opens in new tab), which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.