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2015 – The Burning Questions: Why is BB King's family at war?

If BB could hear his family members feuding over money and making accusations of burglary, abuse and even murder, he would surely turn in his grave.

In the hours before BB King was laid to rest on May 30, 2015, there were rumblings of discontent from on high.

Steady rain fell outside Bell Grove Missionary Baptist Church on BB King Road just outside his birthplace of Indianola, Mississippi, and the original plan for a pair of white horses to accompany the blues legend’s coffin on its two-mile journey to his final resting place had to be abandoned as breaking thunder was unsettling the animals.

Thankfully, the scene inside the church was calmer. Some 500 mourners filed past King’s open casket flanked by two of his trademark Gibson Lucille guitars. During the service, the Reverend Herron Wilson reflected on the guitarist and singer’s rise from sharecropper’s son to one of the icons of 20th-century blues. “Hands that once picked cotton would someday pick guitar strings on a national and international stage,” he said.

It could have been very different. Sitting on adjacent pews in the front row were the two parties currently engaged in a bitter fight over King’s legacy. On one side were a number of his 15 children, including daughter Patty King, and her half-sister Karen Williams. On the other were the musician’s longtime manager, LaVerne Toney, and his personal assistant, Myron Johnson.

In the weeks and days either side of King’s death, an unholy row had blown up between the two sides. Startling accusations had been made of everything from burglary and defamation to abuse and outright murder. Unlike the storm blowing outside the church, this one had been brewing for a while – and it threatened to overshadow the legacy of the man they were mourning.


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