Friday 23 March 2018

BB King's children pay last visit

Blues great BB King (AP)
Blues great BB King (AP)

Five of BB King's adult children have visited the late blues great before his body goes on public view in Las Vegas.

They said the King of the Blues was dressed in a signature purple and gold brocade jacket with black lapels - not one of his most ornate.

But some among the group - daughters Karen Williams, Patty King, Rita Washington and Barbara King Winfree and son Willie King - said they did not think their 89-year-old father looked like himself.

Williams and Patty King accused King's long-time business agent, LaVerne Toney, of keeping them from seeing their father for a week after he died at home on May 14 and of preventing them from taking photos of him in his coffin.

"A picture paints 1,000 words," Patty King said as she showed mobile phone images of the same family group with their father at his birthday in September. "He loved his children."

The five family members refer to themselves as a family board. BB King is survived by 11 of his 15 children.

Ms Toney, who worked for King for 39 years, has retained power of attorney over his affairs and estate despite several court challenges by Williams and Patty King.

She said she was doing what BB King said he wanted.

"They want to do what they want to do, which is take over, I guess," Ms Toney said of the family group. "But that wasn't Mr King's wishes. Mr King would be appalled."

BB King's will, dated January 18 2007, and filed on Wednesday under his birth name, Riley B King, appoints Ms Toney as sole executor of his affairs. Another daughter, Riletta Williams, was second in line, but she died last September.

Ms Toney is banning the media and photographs during the public viewing from 3-7pm local time at the Palm Mortuary on South Jones Boulevard today.

Viewers will be able to file past the open coffin and security officials will prevent photos. The media is not allowed inside.

King's eldest daughter, Shirley King, who is not part of the group, has booked a Las Vegas Strip venue for what she said will be a free musical tribute event starting an hour after the public viewing ends.

"I don't want to be part of the argument over his life," said Ms King, who lives in Chicago and performs as Daughter of the Blues.

She booked a room at the Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas at the Linq promenade to open at 8pm Friday for what she said would be live music and remembrances.

"I don't want to fight with family. I don't want to fight with management," she said. "When everybody gets through being sad about him leaving, I want them to come out and let the good times roll and be happy about his life."

Tomorrow's 11am memorial service at a Palm Mortuary chapel near central Las Vegas was announced as a gathering for family and friends only, but Ms Toney said she did not know who would attend.

There will then be a procession next Wednesday with his body down Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, and a Handy Park tribute.

After that, King's body will be driven to Mississippi for another ceremony and burial on May 30 at the BB King Museum and Delta Interpretive Centre in Indianola.

Press Association

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