“Is it the root of everything — all other genres — it isn't Rhythm & Blues, it is the Rhythm in the Blues.”
— Claudette King
Claudette King can be described as dynamic, amplified, larger than life and down right sassy. She exudes a confidence that perhaps was born of her struggle to prove who she is and at the same time carve out her own identity.
The youngest daughter of Blues icon B.B. King, she grew up attending church and had a “normal” everyday life which included attending public school and seemed far removed from the star-studded world of her father.
Her life was so normal that her classmates did not believe she was the daughter of B.B. King
“There was a high burden of proof for me to convince my classmates,” says King. “They didn't believe my father was B.B. King and felt sorry for me that I would make something like that up. I had to prove it to them, by either taking someone to his concert or letting them speak to him on the phone — which they never really believed. There was always a high level of disbelief because we didn’t all go to a private school and have all the things that money could buy. My parents were strict, and he believed in us learning the value of a dollar. It has served us all well throughout the years.
“That was perhaps my biggest challenge, but also shielded me from people who would have used me to get to know my father. They didn’t believe he was my father in the first place, so no one was really fake to me because of it. It shielded me in a way; it helped me live a normal life. I have taken a few pictures with my dad; but a few pictures with us together stacked up against the thousands he has taken over the course of his career still fall short to some people as proof that I am his child.”
While attempting to prove her family lineage, Claudette King also was attempting to navigate her teens with traditional teenage struggles. It was a trial by fire and forged a steel determination that could be tested but not broken.
“I have this mantra I say when I get tired. I am all about determination. Determination is what can make me or break me ... I have to keep going. When I get tired, it is my faith and determination that get me through,” says King.
While her biggest struggles involved her identity — so did her biggest triumphs.
“Achieving an identity and achieving a career in the same field and genre as my father are personal victories for me,” she says. “I have raised my two sons and daughter who are now raising my grandchildren. They have stayed in school and followed through in college. I stayed out of the limelight for those years to focus on them. Now is my time to do what I love and make a difference in the world around me.”
King’s focused on goals and handles her own public relations and social media.
“I am building a solid foundation for a long career. I intend to be truly successful and carry my own name. I am my father’s daughter; we have similarities — but I am Claudette. I am a workaholic— I live to perform and represent my family. My mother passed this past Aug. 11. She had breast cancer, which she survived for 20 years, but stomach cancer took her life. Her last words to me were to go straight forward with the music. I carry her obituary,” she says.
King says she knows that being a “King” means she has to bring 120 percent when others feel good about bringing 100 percent.
“People perceive me one way and when they find out who I am — I then have to prove who I am. I have to go beyond my best because everything I do reflects on B.B. King. I must always bring 120 percent when others can get away with 100 percent.”
She admits she is harder on herself than anyone else could be.
“I am my own worst critic,” she says. “I have to represent my father — the icon. I have to be excellent. It’s that simple.”
When asked her favorite genre — King listens to and can perform any of them — she says, “ My mother was a big music fan. I love blues. It has everything in it. Name something and I can show you where it began with the blues. It is the root of everything — all other genres — it isn't Rhythm & Blues, it is the Rhythm in the Blues.”
King stays busy with booked venues, but those who attend the Blues, Q & Brew on Oct. 26 will be fortunate to hear her perform. She is headlining the Picayune Main Street, Inc. event.
Of Picayune, King says, “I have had a couple of recent interactions with people from Picayune. I have to tell you, they are my type of people! They are really down-to-earth and good people who have been very supportive of me. They are my new family — they have adopted me.”