5 B.B. King children visit body before public viewing
Las Vegas — Five of B.B. King’s adult children visited the blues great one last time in private at a Las Vegas funeral home that will host a public viewing Friday ahead of a Saturday memorial service.
They said the King of the Blues was dressed in a signature purple and gold brocade jacket with black lapels. It wasn’t 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 — told The Associated Press Thursday that they didn’t think their father looked like himself.
Williams and Patty King accused King’s longtime business agent, LaVerne Toney, of keeping them from seeing their father for a week after he died May 14 at home at age 89 — and of preventing them from taking photos of him in his casket.
“A picture paints 1,000 words,” Patty King said as she showed cellphone 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. B.B. King is survived by eleven of his 15 children.
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.
Toney told AP she’s doing what B.B. King said he wanted.
“They want to do what they want to do, which is take over, I guess,” Toney said of the family group. “But that wasn’t Mr. King’s wishes. Mr. King would be appalled.”
B.B. King’s will, dated Jan. 18, 2007, and filed Wednesday under his birth name, Riley B. King, appoints Toney as sole executor of his affairs. Another daughter, Riletta Williams, was second in line, but she died last September.
Toney is banning the media and photographs of any kind during the public viewing from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Palm Mortuary on South Jones Boulevard.
Funeral director Matt Phillips said viewers will be able to file past the open casket and security officials will prevent photos. The media won’t be allowed inside.
King’s eldest daughter, Shirley King, who isn’t 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 Shirley 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 8 p.m. Friday for what she said will 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.”
Saturday’s 11 a.m. memorial service at a Palm Mortuary chapel near downtown Las Vegas was announced as a gathering for family and friends only, but Toney said she doesn’t know who will attend.
Plans then call for a Wednesday procession 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 May 30 at the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola.