Kernel Andrew loves his music, easily our music film expert and he is probably more passionate about good music than good movies, so it was without a doubt the most logical thing in the world to have him review BB KING: THE LIFE OF RILEY, a documentary about a legend, a true master of his game, someone I am happy to say I, myself, got to see twice onstage. This docco looks superb, just the list of interviews is enough to see in this one and only documentary made of this legend and the clincher – narrated by the best docco voice on the planet, this silky tones of Morgan Freeman can harmonise a story on the legend of BB King anytime and I am in. BB KING: THE LIFE OF RILEY runs for 119mins, is out now and is rated M. The best part of it all, thanks to the great folks at ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT AUSTRALIA we have 3x copies to giveaway ON BLU RAY!! If you don’t win and you must have it – you can buy it online HERE.





What can be said that hasn’t about this legendary artist? I think the movie can be summed up best by the remarks of Aaron Neville “you say blues, you gotta say B.B.”.

It is not just a legendary musician such as Aaron Neville making these remarks about this excellent two hour documentary which seems to have anyone who was anyone in music and entertainment in it. Jon Brewer (who produced and directed this biopic) interviews, it seems, everyone from Buddy Guy, Bobby Bland, Dr John, Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, John Mayer, Mick Taylor, The Rolling Stones, Bono, John Lennon, Ringo Starr to Bruce Willis, Bill Cosby and Morgan Freeman (who also provides the voice over). The man who they call the “Blues Boy” (thus the BB) have people literally lining up to revere and pay tribute to him. He is not known as ‘The King of the Blues’ for no reason.

Riley B King was born like most bluesmen of his generation, into poverty in the deep south of the US on the 25th September 1925. The documentary does an excellent job of concentrating on personal accounts from not just musicians but also from his friends and family. It does full justice not just in covering his life post fame but also to a remarkable early life worthy of a movie in itself. Like many southern “black” men King certainly has every right to play the blues. His early life was difficult. He lost his beloved mother Nora Ella early in his life, his father short thereafter. From a young age he was an orphan. King may have grown up in poverty but this was only monetary poverty. His extended family took a young King in and surrounded him not only with love but also with support. The sense of love and pride this family has in him and his achievements is palpable. In fact King’s own humble nature and good sense of humour comes from those that raised him, it would appear.


BB KING: THE LIFE OF RILEY IMAGE | Albert King, BB King, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan
BB KING: THE LIFE OF RILEY | Albert King, BB King, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan


King went into the “family business,” so to speak. The back breaking and arduous life of farm work and cotton-picking began from the age of seven. As King himself states. “It was work from can to can’t” (a life of work from when you can to when you can no longer stand up). Although the work was hard his family and friends, both black and white, ensured that King, now an orphan, was surrounded by what was important. There are some excellent interviews with his cousins and friends. They all lovingly remember a whip smart clever boy and young man who even given his fame has never ever forgotten where he has come from or the people who have helped him get to where he is. There is even some excellent footage of him returning to drive a tractor after he has become the BB King we know today.

Brewer then shifts focus to King’s path to musical glory. For those who are new to the blues or to King’s life this is an excellent documentary to start with. It is quite exhaustive in its details. From his early beginnings playing guitar on the cotton fields of Mississippi (he fondly remembers picking up a preacher’s guitar at a young age and playing) to his first tentative steps into the bright lights of Memphis. The film is paced well, Brewer gives the audience not only a sense of the great man’s musical journey but also a sense of history of the musical events that surrounded him. For those who may only know BB King it is a good way to also get a taste of musicians that influenced him: T Bone Walker, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Fats Domino and Django Rhinehardt, to name a few. The film follows this path to success, from the Memphis backing musician to band leader to disc jockey at WDIA (the first all-black US Radio station). This is where he picked up the name Blues Boy which was soon shortened to Bee Bee and then simply to B.B.




What is amazing about this documentary is that not only does everybody talk about his otherworldly musical gifts (as Bono says “In New Orleans they call that some other shit”) it is the genuine love and affection that everyone has for him. I think Clapton in the documentary says the only person that doesn’t think he is great is BB or words to that effect. There is praise galore, obviously, for his musical talent from men whose talent is unquestionable (that tells you something). But what is even more impressive is the almost universal agreement that BB is perhaps one of the most generous, humble and good natured people they have all ever met.  For me how his uniqueness is summed up is the consensus amongst all of them that in a world of guitarists the consensus is that King is so original that you can tell his guitar playing from “one note”.

As a music devotee I can unhesitatingly give this nothing but 5 out of 5. Brilliant brilliant stuff.


5 Pops


With special thanks to ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT to win one of the 3 x copies of the BLU RAY of BB KING: THE LIFE OF RILEY you need to either like and share this post on Facebook or retweet/ favourite it on Twitter, you then need to leave a comment below stating the answer to the following question:

What is your favourite entertainer/ band film and why?  For me THE DOORS (movie) wins hands down 🙂

If you do not have Facebook and Twitter then get with the times old timer haha – You can still enter, leave your entry below and email me at telling me you don’t have social media 

Prizes will be awarded based on skill and selected purely on the thoughts of the judges, said judges being the Salty Kernels.

The prizes will be sent in the next week or two. Good luck! Oh, and minor housekeeping – huge apologies for overseas readers, this competition is only available to Australian residents.