Memphis turns blue for B.B. King

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The city where B.B. King got his musical start paid final tribute to the blues guitar master on Wednesday, as thousands walking in the rain with his hearse shouted, "Long live the king!" A band played When The Saints Go Marching In, as mourners proceeded down Beale Street - the downtown strip famous for its blues clubs and source of King's show business name.

"He's going back home to this place where, back then, black musicians had a hard time thriving," said Mr Carver Randle, a long-time friend of King, who died on May 14 in Las Vegas, aged 89.

"I felt like we lost our grandfather," said marcher Kate Hacket, amid the crowd blending young and old, men and women, blacks and whites.

Born in poverty in Mississippi, he worked cotton fields for a pittance. For many, he represented the suffering of blacks in the Deep South during the segregation era.

Wednesday's tribute almost did not happen. An autopsy had to be carried out this week on his body in Nevada after two of his daughters alleged he had been poisoned by his business manager.

But the controversy seemed lost on the people celebrating King's life and music on Wednesday. Rather, people had another worry on their minds: Will the blues fade away with the death of ambassadors such as King?

After the march, King's coffin was symbolically pointed in the direction of Mississippi, the birthplace of the blues, where he will be buried tomorrow.

 
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