Who is B.B. King’s family?
B.B. King often said he had just one woman in his life: his guitar, Lucille.
But that didn’t mean there weren’t many substitutes.
By his own estimate, King, who died May 14, had 15 children by 15 women, none of them his wives. He was also married twice, but neither marriage produced children.
Now, two of his daughters, Patty King and Karen Williams, are claiming their father was poisoned.
“I believe my father was poisoned and that he was administered foreign substances to induce his premature death,” they said in identically worded affidavits. “I believe my father was murdered.”
King was 89 when he died. His attending physician listed the cause as multi-infarct dementia, which is caused by a series of small strokes. He had also suffered from diabetes for many years.
John Fudenberg, the coroner for Clark County, Nevada, said initial autopsy results found “no evidence to substantiate the allegations.” Full forensic results will take six to eight weeks.
The daughters’ lawyer, Larissa Drohobyczer, provided the affidavits to CNN but wouldn’t comment on the case. King and Williams also refused to comment.
Eric Brent Bryson, an attorney for King’s business manager, LaVerne Toney, said the charges were “absolutely ridiculous” and “unfounded.”
“This is absolutely about money,” he said.
Attempts to contact Las Vegas Police for comment about the investigation have been unsuccessful.
‘I tell him that he’s done well by us’
During his life, King long acknowledged the challenges of fidelity.
“It took me a long time to realize that you can’t have all of the women,” he told Rolling Stone in 1998. “I’ve ALWAYS loved the girls.”
He married his first wife, Martha Lee, in 1942. They were both 17. Soon after, King gave up his job as a tractor driver and became a musician. Wedded life and blues traveling didn’t make for a good combination. He and Lee divorced in 1950.
The next year, he had his first major hit, “Three O’Clock Blues,” which allowed him to quit his job as a radio DJ and hit the road full time. He hit it hard: In his prime, King played more than 300 dates a year.
He married Sue Carol Hall in 1958. However, despite King’s attempts to change — Hall accompanied him on the road for a time — that marriage also failed, and the two divorced in 1966.
But King always tried to take care of his children. “If a woman I’ve been with says the child is mine, I don’t argue,” King wrote in “Blues All Around Me,” a memoir. “I assume responsibility.”
He started a multimillion-dollar education fund for his descendants.
His children appear to have understood.
“I tell him that he’s done well by us,” Patty King told Rolling Stone in 1998. She had served time in the early ’90s for drug trafficking; B.B. King performed at her prison.
“I don’t want him to think that things that have happened to me in the past had any kind of bearing on him,” she added. “He’s just a great dad. He’s my father, and he’s my friend.”
Fatherhood and regrets
According to Rolling Stone, King had 11 daughters and four sons. He preferred to keep their names out of the public eye; according to Charles Sawyer’s authorized biography on the bluesman, “he specifically requested that his authorized biography should not identify his children by name, except for those in show business.”
Two of his surviving children, Shirley King and Claudette King, are also entertainers. In recent years — including just after his death — some others have talked or appeared publicly, including Patty King, Karen Williams, Rita Washington, Barbara King Winfree, Willie King and Riley B. King Jr.
Patty wasn’t the only one with difficulties. Riley B. King Jr., King’s youngest son, also served time in the ’90s, in Texas.
Four children predeceased him.
There is a history between some of the children and Toney, the business agent, who has King’s power of attorney. Last year, Patty King, who lived with her father in Las Vegas, filed a police report claiming elder abuse. In late April, Karen Williams and an associate tried to get power of attorney away from Toney.
The claims were rejected by a Clark County judge in early May.
King told Rolling Stone that he regretted not being around for his children but hoped that he had made up for it with the fund and renewed attention.
“This is my way of trying to show them that Dad did love them,” he said. “For those days that I wasn’t there to hold their hands when they needed me.”
By Todd Leopold
CNN’s Ed Payne, Dave Alsup, Kyung Lah and Dottie Evans contributed to this story.