Indianola, MS — Exhibits that focus on the last decade of B.B. King’s life have been added to the award-winning museum that bears his name, and on June 5, 2021, the public is invited to an unveiling of the expansion that also includes the finished Memorial Garden, King’s final resting place. Items acquired after King’s death in 2015 that are part of the 4,500 S.F. addition include two of his personal automobiles—a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow and a custom painted Chevy El Camino. The largest item inside the new space is King’s tour bus, which was filled with the latest music technology and served as his home on the road. Other artifacts include King’s most cherished guitar, a Les Paul given to him by Paul himself, as well as the last two Gibson Lucille guitars signed by King, which were carried on a riderless black horse in his funeral procession.
The day will begin with a ribbon cutting for the additions at 2 p.m., followed by museum tours and live music from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. Food trucks will also be on site. All admission and entertainment is free for the day, but due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns, time slots for tickets will be used to keep a maximum of 120 guests per hour inside the facility. This no-cost registration can be made through bbkingmuseum.eventbrite.com. Masks will be required inside the buildings but not in the outdoor areas.
Even before the passing of King, stakeholders in the museum realized that at some point the rest of his life story would need to be told and began collecting material and interviews for a new film to add to the exhibits. Important events occurred since the museum opened in 2008, including King’s performance in the Royal Albert Hall in London, where he recorded a concert video. In 2012, King was among performers of “In Performance at the White House: Red, White and Blues,” and he won another GRAMMY® Award in 2008 for Best Traditional Blues Album.
Along with the existing granite tablet, part of the newly designed Memorial Garden that is expected to draw visitors for photo opportunities is a life-size bronze of King holding his beloved Lucille. The bronze was created by noted sculptor Toby Mendez with input from some who knew King best. Malika Polk-Lee, executive director of the museum, said, “The likeness of this artistic representation of Mr. King is remarkable, and we expect many photographs to be made with guests sitting beside it on the bench in the Memorial Garden. Other features have been added to make the area a peaceful place where visitors can go to pay their respects and remember the goodness, talent and humility that defined who he was.”
The expansion connects the existing exhibit space with the AT&T Learning Center, which is used for educational programs, a main focus of the mission of the museum.
Gallagher and Associates, the designers of the original exhibit, also planned the expansion. Building design was done by Canizaro-Cawthon-Davis with engineering by Gardner Engineering and construction by David Smith Construction and exhibit fabrication by Solomon Group.
Bill McPherson, museum board president, said, “This addition has been in the works for several years now, and everyone associated with the project is thrilled that it is finally time to welcome B.B. King fans from all over the world to see the new pieces. It gives people who have formerly visited a good reason to come back, and for those who have never been, I believe they will have the same response we hear over and over and read in the guest book—that this is an extraordinary place that does justice in honoring a special man.”
The multi-million-dollar expansion was made possible with the support of the city of Indianola, the Mississippi Department of Transportation, the state of Mississippi, Delta Regional Authority, Mississippi Arts Commission, Institute of Museum and Library Services, and private donations.
The museum’s website, bbkingmuseum.org, as well as its social media channels will be continually updated with details of the day including the list of performers.