LAS VEGAS, May 15 (UPI) -- The singer-guitarist known as "The King of Blues," B.B. King, died at his Nevada home late Thursday, his attorney said. He was 89.
King, who began his musical career in the late 1940s, is considered a pioneer in the Blues genre -- and created a unique postwar sound mostly in front of all-black audience in the so-called Southern "chitlin circuit."
A string of R&B hits backed by big bands is what King became known for, Variety reported Thursday.
"His forceful yet elegant single-string picking and roaring, emotion-packed singing won him devotees like the white blues-rock guitarists Michael Bloomfield, Steve Miller and Eric Clapton, who helped introduce him to a youthful new audience in the late '60s," Variety Music Reporter Christopher Morris wrote.
King was born in Berclair, Miss., in 1925 and had learned to play the guitar by age 12. He served in the U.S. Army briefly during World War II before traveling to Memphis to explore a musical career.
King is credited with advancing the blues genre unlike any before him. He scored several No. 1 hits, perhaps none bigger than "The Thrill is Gone" from 1969.
He was honored with a lifetime achievement by the Recording Academy in 1987 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in just its second year. During the 1980s he also appeared on U2's famous album, "Rattle and Hum" and contributed the lead song for the 1985 film Into the Night.
King performed around the world and played up to 150 shows a year until late in his career, Variety's report said.
According to his attorney, King died while in his sleep at about 9:40 p.m. local time Thursday.
President Barack Obama marked King's death with fond memories of the impromptu "duet" they sang at White House in 2012, saying, "there's going to be one killer blues session in heaven tonight."
"Three years ago, Michelle and I hosted a blues concert at the White House. I hadn't expected that I'd be talked into singing a few lines of 'Sweet Home Chicago' with B.B. by the end of the night, but that was the kind of effect his music had, and still does," Obama said. "He gets stuck in your head, he gets you moving, he gets you doing the things you probably shouldn't do – but will always be glad you did. B.B. may be gone, but that thrill will be with us forever."
Obama lauded King as an inspiration to musicians worldwide.
"The blues has lost its king, and America has lost a legend. B.B. King was born a sharecropper's son in Mississippi, came of age in Memphis, Tenn., and became the ambassador who brought his all-American music to his country and the world," he said. "No one worked harder than B.B. No one inspired more up-and-coming artists. No one did more to spread the gospel of the blues."
King's passing was also acknowledged on social media channels late Thursday, with many calling him the genre's best ever.
"RIP to one of the greatest players of all time, Mr. BB King," one tweet said.
Amy R. Connolly contributed to this report.