Albert King

“Born under a bad sign, been down since I began to crawl, if it wasn’t for real bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all …” from Born Under A Bad Sign

Of all the Blues guitar players, Albert King undoubtedly had the most profound influence of Rock guitar. It was Albert King that Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor and Steve Ray Vaughan modeled themselves on him. Cream did a version of Born Under A Bad Sign, Eric Clapton copied Albert King’s solo lock stock and barrel on reproduced it on Strange Brew; Mick Taylor was so Albert King that at times he almost played better Albert King licks than Albert himself; Steve Ray Vaughan just borrowed the signature licks from Albert to combine with his own style to create his own brand of solo.

Born Under A Bad Sign was collection of tunes recorded at the Stax Recording Studio in Memphis in between 1966 and 1967. This is the definitive collection of Albert King’s music. All his famous tunes are here, Born Under A Bad Sign, Crosscut Saw, Kansas City, Oh Pretty Woman, Personal Manager, Laundromat Blues, As The Years Go Passing By, The Very Thought Of You. Albert King was a left-handed player and he played a right-handed guitar with the strings up-side down. So instead of pushing the, say flated 3rd note up, he would be pulling it down. His also doesn’t play in the conventional tuning, he played in an open tuning and he never played much chord. But his guitar was one of the most distinctive voices in Blues. The bends Albert King managed to get out of the strings were just incredible. You cannot miss him by a mile if he was playing, the first note you hear you know it is Albert King. Albert had a husky voice, intimate and friendly and even the first time you hear him you would feel like an old friend talking to you.

Albert King was born in Mississippi and in his childhood he sang Gospel. In 1959, he moved to St. Loius. Two years later he recorded the hit Don’t Throw Your Love So Strong On Me. In later years he was signed by Stax Records and recorded and released a series of recordings. During this period, he often had some of the best studio musicians in the world backing him. On Born Under A Bad Sign, it had Donald “Duck” Dunn on bass, Al Jackson Jr. on drums, Book T. Jones and Issac Hayes on piano together with the famous Memphis Horns. There was always a strong hit of Soul and Rhythm & Blues in Albert King’s music. Albert King was a big man and had an enormous presence on stage. Every time I think of him, the image of an enormous man in a black suit wringing the life out of the strings of his Flying-V. He also had a firy temper on stage. When he appeared as guest to John Mayall’s Bluesbreaker Re-union Concert in 1982 and the band was really annoying him playing too loud, he just turned round and gave them a really bollocking. After that the band just quiet down like kittens. He also appeared as guest in Gary Moore’s forgettable Still Got The Blues concert. Watching Albert King with Gary Moore was a real torture and ordeal. Gary Moore’s guitar so loud, up-front and ugly, you could hardly hear Albert King play; anyway he never left much room for Albert. Some people just don’t know respect and what was the point of having a special guest on stage if he was not even allowed to play and be heard.

Albert King liked fishing. His his favourite hobby was to light up a pipe and side on the river bank and fish. Albert King died in 1993. His last released was I’m In A Phone Booth on Fantasy label.

 

Live Wire/ Blues Power

Thursday Night At San Francisco

 

Live Wire/Blues Power and Live In San Francisco were both live recordings. The performances were very good, you can feel the passion and emotion of the man on stage. Live Wire/Blues Power had more slower and quieter tunes whereas Live In San Francisco was more up-beat. Both recordings were released under Stax Records. I should mention that Albert King’s version of I’ll Play The Blues For You is really something you want to listen to. The song was so good you just don't want it to end. This was Albert at his best. Albert was so soulful, seductive and teasing, he seemed as if sitting right next to you, talking to you. I’ll Play The Blues For You was one of his best songs. The song can be found in I’ll Play The Blues For You released under Stax Records.

 

I'll Play The Blues For You

 

Albert King is a lesson to learn. Many guitar players play as fast as they can, cram as many notes as they can into their solos. Sometimes the best is the simpliest. One single note can mean a lot more than a whole bunch of notes. The other thing is feeling. Albert King is one of the King of the Blues without a doubt.

 

Albert King live in London 1969