The Death of B.B. King: The Thrill Is Gone, But The Suspicion Remains. Should It?

The recent allegations of abuse and murder raised by B.B’s children seem unthinkable, but there have been some suspicious happenings surrounding the death of the legendary bluesman, is it possible that he was murdered?  Not likely.

LAS VEGAS - AUGUST 16:  Recording artist B.B. King performs at his B.B. King's Blues Club at the Mirage Hotel & Casino August 16, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS – AUGUST 16: Recording artist B.B. King performs at his B.B. King’s Blues Club at the Mirage Hotel & Casino August 16, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

If you have spent any time on the internet in the last few weeks, you already know that the world lost one of its most wonderful voices when the great BB King passed away.  Born Riley B. King in 1925, he went on to become one of the most talented, influential and prolific Blues musicians of all time, gaining his nickname “B.B.”, which stands for “Blues Boy” along the way.  B.B.’s tragic, but not altogether surprising passing at age 89 earlier this month elicited an almost universal period of mourning among both musicians and fans from all walks of life, which is a testament to his longevity, creativity and depth.  However, as is the case with many celebrity deaths, conspiracy theories have begun to pop up.

Just a few days after King’s death, two of B.B. King’s daughters came out with the claim that that his business manager, LaVerne Toney, and personal assistant, Myron Johnson poisoned him.  Thats right.  They claimed B.B. King, Blues legend and musical icon was murdered by his friend and manager of over 30 years.  This sort of allegation is nothing new.  Following the death of just about any celebrity, family, friends or business partners tend to come out of the woodwork with conspiracy theories, and often time’s these are dismissed as a cash grab, as most celebrities are sitting on a healthy estate.  But could there be some merit to the claims made by King’s daughters?  Not if their history is anything to go on.  B.B. wasn’t just a prolific musician, he was a somewhat prolific father as well, and several of his children have a history of strange behavior, spurious claims and an interest in getting his money.  This may also be why King left his children and grandchildren four figure inheritances and earmarked the rest specifically for education.

I am not convinced that B.B. King was murdered, he was 89 years old, and in poor health.  We won’t know that for sure until the results of the toxicology tests come back.  These tests were ordered following the allegations and results won’t be in for a few weeks yet.  However, there is one piece of information that I don’t think enough attention has been paid to.

This picture is the embodiment of the friendship between these great Blues legends.
This picture is the embodiment of the friendship between these great Blues legends.  Buddy and B.B. recorded ‘Stay Around a Little Longer’ for Buddy’s 2010 album Living Proof.  The song is about what the Blues means to them, and their friendship.  You can watch the video and hear the song at the bottom of the page. 

Most Blues fans are aware that B.B. King’s best friend is his fellow legend, Buddy Guy.  Buddy and B.B. have been friends for nearly 60 years, and have had a long standing argument over who is the better guitarist.  B.B. claimed that Buddy was the best, and Buddy, to this day says that B.B. was the greatest to ever live.  Here is where things get shady.  A few weeks before B.B. King passed away, Buddy Guy stopped by to visit, and say goodbye to his best friend.  LaVerne Toney, who at that point had power of attorney, refused to allow Buddy access.  What possible reason could she have to keep two best friends of almost 60 years apart?  I can understand keeping the kids away, as they were all upset that none of them had been named executor of the estate, but Buddy Guy was not involved in any of that.  He just wanted to see his friend.  That to me is a very suspicious piece of information because it would be easy to dismiss claims of abuse or conspiracy by angry children that were left out of the will, but it would be much more difficult to prevent B.B. from telling his best friend who is also a notoriously savvy businessman.

Buddy Guy spoke to CBS Chicago about the incident in the following interview.

In the interview, Guy indicates that he too is suspicious, stating, “That lady wouldn’t let nobody see him, she would lock out everybody. She didn’t want nobody to see him for some strange reason.”  and that he had a gig in Las Vegas a few weeks later and was going to go there and “kick the door down, or at least hard enough to get her to come out and explain herself.”

It is important to note that B.B. made his manager the executor of his estate, rather than his children, and they were upset.  It is entirely possible that LaVerne Toney took sheltering B.B. too far, and that her intentions were nothing but good.  In fact, given their long relationship, it is equally, if not more likely that she was doing what she could to protect her friend during what were sadly, his last few weeks.  I want to believe that there was nothing sinister going on in this situation, and given B.B.’s love and respect for LaVerne Toney, and his equal lack of confidence in his children to handle his affairs, it is likely that this is, in fact a misunderstanding.  Either way, B.B. King has left an indelible mark on not only the Blues, but on the art of music as a whole and that is what we should be focusing our attention on.


CBS Chicago –


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