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B.B. King remembered: Memphis musicians pay tribute to late Beale Street Blues Boy

Memphis musicians bid a final farewell to the late blues legend B.B. King with a special session today, followed by a procession down Beale Street, the famous strip that gave King his stage name.

King's body is being taken to his hometown of Indianola, Miss., for burial on Saturday

Blues music legend B.B. King kicks off his 60th Anniversary Tour in Anaheim, Calif. in January 2007. On Wednesday, Memphis musicians bid a final farewell to the late musician who launched his professional career in the city in 1947. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Memphis paid tribute to late guitar legend B.B. King today, with a musical service and a procession down Beale Street.

The famous downtown strip in Tennessee is considered by many to be the birthplace of the blues. It's also where King launched his musical career in 1947, giving him his iconic stage name, Beale Street Blues Boy, which was later shortened to B.B. King.

King died on May 14 in his Las Vegas home. He was 89.

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      Blues musicians from across the U.S. gathered at Memphis's Handy Park for a musical tribute.

      It was followed by a brass band procession down Beale Street with King's hearse and his treasured guitar, Lucille.

      King's body is being taken south to his hometown of Indianola, Miss., for a Friday viewing and a burial on Saturday.

      Blue for the bluesman 

      Despite rain showers, large crowds gathered for Wednesday's final farewell in Memphis. Organizers had asked anyone wanting to attend to wear blue in honour of the hard-working bluesman and three-time hall of famer.

      The city's salute is evidence of Memphis's lasting connection to the legendary musician, said Mayor A C Wharton. 

      "The fact that Beale Street Blues Boy is the origin of the nickname B.B. is the type of authentic connection that will never die," Wharton told the Memphis Business Journal.

      "B.B. King and Memphis had a longtime love affair, so it's only fitting that the city mark his life on Beale Street."

      More than 1,000 fans and mourners turned out to pay their respects at a public viewing in Las Vegas last week, and a weekend family-and-friends memorial drew some 350 people.

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