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B.B. King

A longtime expert on Blues music recounts what it was like to work with an artist who defies definition.

Editor's Note: William Ferris is the former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture.

A gracious antebellum city of stern-wheelers and cotton money; a restless, violent city with a hot grain of genius at its heart; a city of calamity, desolation, and rebirth; a city that changed the way the whole world hears music. It’s all the same city, and it is this year’s Great American Place. Thomas Childers answers a summons to Memphis, Tennessee.

Memphis, the home of the blues, was a college of learning for me.

One day in 1946 twenty-one-year-old Riley King, of lndianola, Mississippi, caught a ride on a grocery truck all the way to Memphis, about 140 miles north.

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