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Memphis procession honours BB King

Published 27/05/2015

A hearse carrying the body of blues musician BB King is taken down Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, in a procession (AP Photo/Karen Pulfer Focht)
A hearse carrying the body of blues musician BB King is taken down Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, in a procession (AP Photo/Karen Pulfer Focht)

A Dixieland jazz band walked ahead of a slow black hearse and a crowd of thousands followed as the city of Memphis said farewell to blues star BB King with a tribute and processional down Beale Street.

The processional began just before 1pm local time, made its way down the street that is synonymous with the blues and paused next to BB King's Blues Club before turning on to BB King Blues Highway.

Behind the Memphis-based Mighty Souls Brass Band and just ahead of the hearse, drummer Rodd Bland - son of the late blues singer Bobby "Blue" Bland - carried one of King's signature Lucille guitars.

The huge crowd filled Beale Street and spilled down side streets as onlookers pressed in, taking pictures on their mobile phones.

"This is history," said Detroit resident Mary Springfield, standing at Beale and 3rd streets. "This is an awesome feeling. This is a legacy and I'm part of it today, and I'm blessed to be here." She had travelled to Memphis for the processional.

"Such a beautiful day," said Memphis native Gary Daly. "It's a great tribute to a wonderful contributor to the world of music. It's been really amazing to see the people of Memphis coming out, having a great time together, celebrating a wonderful, loving man."

Tributes in music and words were also offered at nearby WC Handy Park.

King's body is being taken to Indianola, Mississippi, which King considered his hometown, for his funeral on Saturday.

Early in his career, King was nicknamed "Beale Street Blues Boy", and the name was soon shortened to "BB".

King died in hospice care at home in Las Vegas on May 14 at the age of 89.

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