(INDIANOLA, MS) – Significant coverage this past week of a sale to liquidate some of the personal items in B.B. King’s estate has caused confusion over the future of the B.B. King Museum, according to the museum’s director, Malika Polk-Lee. She explained that some of the news was centered around the selling price of one of King’s “Lucille” guitars at $280,000, which was around three times what was anticipated. “We want to make sure everyone is aware that this sale was only of some of Mr. King’s personal assets from his home in Las Vegas,” said Ms. Polk-Lee. She emphasized that calls are coming in from people planning visits who were concerned that this signaled a change at the museum, and she wants to make clear that the items auctioned were never part of the collection housed at Mr. King’s official museum.
Bill McPherson, museum board president, said, “We were fortunate to have a great relationship with Mr. King throughout the building of the museum, and he could not have been more generous in donating items we thought would be a good fit with our plans. This included letting us remove all the furnishings from his home office in Las Vegas so we could reconstruct a complete replica of the space as one of the museum exhibits using the actual items from his home.”
“The only thing changing at the B.B. King Museum is our size,” added Ms. Polk-Lee. “We are adding new exhibit spaces to allow us to house and display a tour bus and two personal automobiles, including Mr. King’s Rolls Royce Silver Shadow. The final chapter in the amazing story of Mr. King’s rise to stardom from his very humble beginning in the Mississippi Delta will also be a part of this expansion,” she added.
The guitar that fetched the hefty sum at auction was a signed ES-345 prototype that was given to Mr. King by Gibson in honor of this 80th birthday. There were more than 550 other items, including photographs, audio equipment, clothing and jewelry. A diamond-studded ring that spelled “BB” brought $16,250, and according to the auction company, the entire sale brought in around $1.3 million. And as far as other Lucilles, the museum has a number of early and later versions in its collection, including the last two guitars that Mr. King signed. They were used in his funeral procession and are now securely stored. “We hope the auction prices continue to show the strong attachment people have to items that belonged to Mr. King, and our museum is still the best place to see much of his personal collection interpreted through award-winning films and exhibits,” said Ms. Polk-Lee.