Located in Indianola, MS, the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center celebrates the history of America’s indigenous music through a focus on influential blues singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer B.B. King. Born on September 16, 1925 on a cotton plantation near Indianola, Mississippi, Riley B. King developed an early interest in music as a result of participation in local gospel church choirs, purchasing his first guitar by the age of 12.
While working as a tractor driver throughout the early 1940s, King became a fan of the Arkansas radio broadcast “King Biscuit Time” and decided to pursue a career as a radio blues musician. Beginning in 1948, his regular appearances on West Memphis’ KWEM and Memphis’ WDIA radio stations earned him the title of the “Beale Street Blues Boy,” a nickname which eventually developed into his stage name B.B. Following a record deal with Los Angeles’ RPM Records, King rose to prominence in the 1950s as one of the leading American blues performers, developing a reputation as a tireless touring performer throughout the later half of the 20th century. In 1987, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and is remembered today as the “King of the Blues,” noted for his innovative style of electric guitar solos.
In 2008, the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center was opened in King’s hometown of Indianola as a means of enhancing community awareness of blues music and its impact on Mississippi Delta cultural history through the legacy of King’s work. Included in the museum’s development was the restoration of a 1940s cotton gin building that King worked at during his residency in the area. Through exhibits on King’s musical accomplishments and the achievements of other prominent Delta Blues artists, the Museum aims to preserve and promote the musical and social culture of the Mississippi Delta area. Following his death in 2015 at the age of 89, King was buried at the Museum and a memorial garden was created in honor of his life and legacy.
An extensive collection of artifacts related to King’s life and music form the basis of the museum’s collections, which are displayed in interactive exhibits focusing on various aspects of King’s career and the history of the Delta Blues. A high-definition Theatre serves as an orientation point for visitors, offering showings of several award-winning short films on topics related to King’s legacy. Three main exhibit galleries chronicle King’s early years in the Mississippi Delta, his rise to fame as a radio performer in Memphis in the early 1950s, and his ascension to international blues icon throughout the 1960s and beyond. A variety of hands-on multimedia exhibits focus on the social and cultural forces that shaped King’s early career, including the shift in African-American musical performance in the 1930s and 1940s away from traditional gospel music to secular popular genres. Firsthand accounts from King’s friends and colleagues are highlighted, along with music memorabilia and artifacts from other prominent 20th-century Delta Blues artists emerging from the region.
In addition to standard visitor admission, group rates and suggested itineraries are provided for tour groups, though docent-led tours are not offered. Delta Blues-themed memorabilia is available at Lucille’s Gift Shop, including CDs, DVDs, apparel, and souvenirs.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Group tour opportunities for student tour groups are available, including suggested itineraries and curriculum-based materials. The Museum also offers a wide variety of arts and educational programming, including piano and guitar lessons for youth and adult students. Yoga, taekwondo, and exercise and health courses are also held regularly for participants of all ages. An annual AllStars Ensemble program provides intensive training and performance and travel opportunities for exceptional young musicians in grades 6-12, and a B.B.’s Bridge Building Ambassadors program offers social leadership opportunities to secondary school students throughout Sunflower County.
Weekly concerts are presented on Thursday nights at the historic Club Ebony, a prominent African-American nightclub in downtown Indianola. A Live at the Museum performance series also brings notable contemporary blues musicians to the museum quarterly for special performances. An annual B.B King Homecoming festival and concert is held in June, begun in 2008 by King prior to his death and continued today as a memorial celebration in his honor. Museum membership is available to Indianola residents and visitors, offering exclusive benefits and invitations to members-only special events throughout the year. Members also received discounted rates on museum workshops and classes and a subscription to the weekly Lucille’s Notes e-newsletter.
400 2nd St, Indianola, MS 38751, Phone: 662-887-9539