The avid blues fan can instantly identify Lucille (with their eyes closed). Say what? Who is this Lucille?
Lucille can be described as ‘classic style body, without f-holes, elegant high-gloss ebony, gold-plated, multi-ply body binding, mother-of-pearl inlays, fine-tuning tailpiece…. a sound of pure emotion, an expression of the soul, pause and play, tension and release, squeals, thrills, and single-note soloing. If you haven’t figured it out by now, Lucille is a guitar and the lifelong companion of the late BB King. Not as widely-known, Lucille was not a single guitar, but a series of guitars that BB King owned and used over the years. The majority of BB’s Lucilles were black Gibson guitars similar to ES-335 or 355.
Who was the first Lucille, and how’d she get her name?
According to wikipedia, “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 set in the middle of the dance floor, a fairly common practice at the time. During a performance, two men began to fight, knocking over the barrel and sending the burning fuel across the floor. The hall burst into flames and was evacuated.
Once outside however, King realized that he had left his guitar inside so he went back into the burning building to retrieve his beloved $30 Gibson guitar. King learned the next day that the two men who started the fire had been fighting over a woman who worked at the hall named Lucille. King did not know Lucille but named that guitar, and every guitar he subsequently owned, Lucille, as a reminder never again to do something as stupid as run into a burning building or fight over a woman.”
BB’s fifteenth album, Lucille, was released in 1968 and included a 10-minute song in which he talks about his Lucille and the story behind her name. Below is a video of BB playing the song Lucille, followed the lyrics.
On a personal note, my father is the lucky recipient of an organ donation in which he received a kidney that he appropriately named Lucille.
LYRICS FROM ‘LUCILLE’ – BB KING
The sound that you’re listening to
Is from my guitar that’s named Lucille
I’m very crazy about Lucille
Lucille took me from the plantation
Oh you might say
Brought me fame
I don’t think I could just talk enough about Lucille
Sometime when I’m blue seem like Lucille try to help me call my name
I used to sing spirituals and I thought that this
Was the thing that I wanted to do
But somehow or other
When I went in the army
I picked up on Lucille
And started singing blues
Now when I’m paying my dues
“Maybe you don’t know what I mean when I say
Paying dues, I mean when things are bad with me”
I can always, I can always
You know like uhm
Depend on Lucille
Sort of hard to talk to you myself
I guess I’ll let Lucille say a few words and then
I doubt if you can feel it like I do
But when I think about the things that I’ve gone through
Like, well for instance
If I have a girlfriend
And she misuses me, and I go home at night
Maybe I’m lonely
Well not maybe
I am lonely
I pick up Lucille
And it bring out those funny sounds that sound good to me
Sometime I get to the place where I can’t even say nothing
Sometime I think it’s crying.
You know, if I could sing pop tunes like Frank Sinatra
Or Sammy Davis Junior
I don’t think I still could do it
‘Cause Lucille don’t wanna play nothing but the blues
I’m, I think
I’m pretty glad about that
Well, I’ll put it like this
Take it easy, Lucille.
I like the way Sammy sings and I like the way Frank
Sings, but I can get a little Frank, Sammy, a little Ray Charles
In fact all the people with soul in this
A little Mahalia Jackson in there.
One more, Lucille!
Take it easy now
I imagine a lot of you wanna know
Ablot of you wanna know why I call the guitar Lucille?
Lucille has practically saved my life two or three times
No kidding, it really has
I remember once I was in an automobile accident
And when the car stopped turning over, it fell over on Lucille,
And it held it up off me
Really it held it up off me
So that’s one time it saved my life
The way, the way I came by the name of
Lucille, I was over in Twist, Arkansas
I know you’ve never heard of that one, have you?
And one night the guys started a ball over there, you know
They started brawling, you know what I mean.
And the guy that was mad with his old lady
When she fell over on this gas tank that was burning for heat
The gas ran all over the floor
And when the gas ran all over the floor
The building caught on fire, and almost burned me up trying to save
Oh I, I imagine you’re still wondering why I call it Lucille?
The lady that started that brawl that night was named Lucille
And that’s been Lucille ever since to me
One more now, Lucille
Sounds pretty good to me.
Can I do one more?
Look out, Lucille
Sounds pretty good
I think I’ll try one more