There were traveling bluesmen, then there was B.B. King. “The King of the Blues” took to the road harder than most musicians before or after, regularly putting on hundreds of shows a year for decades, even into his 70s. In life, as in death, King was never too far from a big set of wheels: his longest-traveled tour bus is on display at the B.B. King Museum in Indianola, Mississippi, a complex where the man himself was also laid to rest in 2015.
After he pressed his 1951 hit “Three O’Clock Blues,” King began an itinerant life defined by live performance. Throughout the course of his career he toured 90+ countries, averaging well over 200 shows a year, performing 342 shows in 1956 alone. Facilitating this boundless nature was a fleet of buses on which he and his band lived over the course of his many-years career.
Some buses came and went in pretty typical blues fashion: There was a 1945 used Aerocoach that caught fire in Texas two days after his insurance was canceled and a 1958 Starliner that was stolen shortly after his wife left him, but the 1987 Van Hool Aero Magnum never gave him trouble. According to the museum, the colossal Belgian-made bus traveled over 12 million miles to get B.B. and his band to shows between 1987 and 1992. Looking at the monstrous, shiny bus in an expanded wing of the already expansive museum, you’d never guess it made the equivalent of 25 round-trips to the moon.