Beale Street says goodbye to B.B. King

Published: May. 27, 2015 at 7:17 PM CDT|Updated: May. 28, 2015 at 8:16 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Family, friends, and fans made their way to Beale Street to watch the blues legend make his final trip down the street that helped make him famous.

The day began with performances at Handy Park, from Keb' Mo' to Bobby Rush.

Heavy rain early in the day looked like it would wash out Wednesday's celebration, but by 11 a.m., the clouds parted.

"We are so grateful to be here on this day to celebrate with everyone," B.B. King fan Mary Evans said.

Their emotions were both celebratory and somber, as King's casket arrived on Beale Street for one last pass along the street that gave the Beale Street Blues Boy his name.

"I'm just so sad on this day, so I came to give my condolences to the family and all his friends," Johnny Johnson said.

"He's definitely influenced the world of blues music and hip hop music today," Bianca Rodriguez said. "Everyone referenced B.B. King."

At Wednesday's tribute to B.B. King, his surviving family wore baby blue T-shirts with images of the King of the Blues and his guitar, Lucille.

"When we found out the city was wearing blue in support, we wanted to show solidarity for our grandfather," Landra Williams, King's granddaughter said.

Throughout the years, Williams has traveled all over the world on tour with B.B. King

She praised the way Memphis paid tribute to her grandfather.

"It's very similar to our last tour with our grandfather," Williams said. "So I think we're just honored to be a part of the way Memphis has celebrated his life."

Williams was near speechless by Wednesday's turnout, as thousands of people packed Beale Street to capture American history.

"It's overwhelming to say the least. I can't ... I'm very touched."

Williams is also moved to know city leaders are considering naming a street after the late king of blues.

"I think it's such a huge honor. It's a huge honor. I can't even express how excited we are about this."

Celebrities and fellow musicians also made the trip to Beale Street to honor King.

"B.B. King never switched, never swayed in what he was doing," blues legend Bobby Rush said. "He stood still. Even when music was going one direction and we all went another direction trying to fit in. B.B. King never tried to fit in. He just did what he did. You liked it or you didn't like it."

Grammy winner Keb' Mo' gave King the highest of praises.

"If it wasn't for B.B. King, none of us would know what to play or do," Keb' Mo' said. "He led the way and he was leading the way since I was a kid. I used to listen to King with my family after church. After church, we would go home and listen to B.B. King."

The procession made its way down Beale Street, turned onto Third Street, then continued down to Mississippi where King will be buried.

"He's meant so much to the city of Memphis and the world. It's just an honor to be here," Veronica Rawls said.

King's body is headed to Indianola, Mississippi, near King's hometown.

Family and friends in the area lined the street waiting to welcome the king of the blues home.

Businesses put up purple and black ribbons, while children held purple balloons to remember the man who meant so much to the town and the world.

"He was a symbol of what can happen when you grow up in a small town," Karin Scott said. "You can go on and achieve not just national recognition but worldwide recognition."

As King's body made its way down Front Street in Indianola to the funeral home, balloons were released and people took photos. Similar scenes occurred in all the towns on the trip from Memphis to Indianola.

"We just wanted to show our thankfulness for all that he has done for this community and wish him and his family the best," said Indianola resident Caleb Herod.

King's friends describe him as one of the most humble men in the world.

"Very humble, and if you asked him he'd say he didn't deserve it [the B.B. King Museum in Indianola]," Carver Randle said. "But everybody outside would say he deserved this and more."

B.B. King's legacy lives on in the B.B. King Museum. The museum does a great job of capturing his life and all that is B.B. King.

Executive director of the museum, Malika Polk-Lee, says they are ready for King's public visitation happening Friday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

King's funeral is on Saturday. He will be buried at the museum.

WMC Action News 5 covered every angle of Wednesday's procession. Click here to look back at what happened throughout the day.

Click here to watch B.B. King's final trip down Beale Street.

Click here to look at pictures from today's event.

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