Tag Archives: Memphis

Singer: B.B. King

B.B. King has always been one of the hardest-working musicians in the country, playing an estimated 15,000 shows in his career. Uploaded by arena.csusb.edu.

What would the blues be without Riley King? He got his nickname from his time playing on Beale Street in Memphis (Great American Things, January 21, 2010), where he was “Beale Boy” or “B.B.” Today, King owns the popular B.B. King’s Blues Club that anchors that headquarters of the blues — and has other locations in cities from coast to coast.

Uploaded by bealestreetmerchants.com.

During his prime, King was one of the hardest-working musicians in the business, routinely performing 300 or more shows a year. He worked his way up playing the “chitlin‘ circuit,” the smoky blues clubs of the South. One night, two men got into a fight during one of his shows, knocking over kerosene barrels and setting the building on fire. Although two people died in the blaze, King rushed back in to get his favorite guitar. He later learned the two men were fighting over a woman named “Lucille,” and that’s been the name of his world-famous guitar ever since.

Only blues enthusiasts know most of King’s singles, though a few have become popular hits. His signature song is “The Thrill Is Gone,” which earned him the Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male in 1971. King is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was selected by Rolling Stone as number three on its list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time,” and he has won both the Kennedy Center Honors and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Americana: FedEx

FedEx has grown from a fledgling delivery service to 280,000 employees and over $25 billion in assets. Uploaded by wikimedia.org.

It’s unusual for a company to occupy a place on this list. Not that there aren’t some that deserve the recognition; it’s just that most businesses have some negatives that may seem to cancel out the positives. Of course, no business is perfect, and neither is FedEx, but it did something unusual and important. It created a whole new category of business – overnight delivery.

Fred Smith founded the company in 1971 in Little Rock. The story goes that he didn’t get the support he needed from the Little Rock airport, so he moved his operations to Memphis. Great vision, there, Little Rock.

Uploaded by corkyandlennys.com.

At first, overnight service was available to only 25 cities in the country. But when airline routes were deregulated, FedEx not only expanded its service but also the size of its airplanes. The company bought seven Boeing 727-100s, on the way to becoming the second-largest fleet in the world.

Ironically, one of the company’s largest customers is one it almost put out of business. The U.S. Postal Service uses FedEx to deliver its Express Mail and Priority Mail. The deal lasts until 2013 and is why you’ll find FedEx boxes at most post office locations.

The original FedEx is now FedEx Express, just one of many divisions of the company. Among these are FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight, and FedEx Office (formerly known as Kinko’s). It now employs more than 280,000 people, and has assets in excess of $25 billion. Like that, Little Rock?