Though he never became as famous as his distant cousin B.B. King, the late blues
guitarist Albert King left behind a great body of work that has influenced numerous
guitarists, including Robert Cray, Otis Rush, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton.
Albert King was born Albert Nelson 76 years ago today in Indianola, Miss. (the same city
where B.B. King was born). He was always interested in music, and played the guitar at
a young age, but he worked first as a bulldozer operator and a mechanic before
becoming a professional musician.
In the late '40s he gigged with an Arkansas blues band, the In the Groove Boys. The tall,
almost 300-pound King then played drums for Jimmy Reed and recorded a few singles
of his own, such as 1953's "Bad Luck Blues." He changed his surname to King after B.B.
King achieved success.
In 1959 Albert King signed to St. Louis' Bobbin Records, where he recorded with a
pianist and horn section. King's records became known for the sound of his signature
Gibson Flying V guitar, which he named Lucy. He had an R&B hit on King Records in
1961 with "Don't Throw Your Love on Me Too Strong." The moderately successful LP
The Big Blues followed two years later.
But King had his greatest success in the late '60s on Stax Records, where he worked
with some of the best Memphis musicians.
In 1966, King scored a top-40 hit with "Laundromat Blues." In 1967 he issued Born
Under a Bad Sign, featuring Booker T. and the MG's, who played on many of his
soul-laced Stax releases. That same year he had a hit with "Cross Cut Saw." Many white
blues fans got to know King when he played the Fillmore West in 1968 with Big Brother
and the Holding Company and Tim Buckley (King's Live Wire/Blues Power was
After playing with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in 1969, King stepped up his
touring schedule. In the '70s he left Stax and scored a few minor soul hits. He also
recorded an Elvis Presley tribute LP, King Does the King's Things, and guested
on Gary Moore's LP Still Got the Blues.
King died of a heart attack Dec. 21, 1992. But his rough vocals and biting blues
guitar-playing left a lasting impression on many rockers, including the Eagles' Joe
Walsh, who honored King with a slide-guitar take on "Amazing Grace" at his funeral.
King's songs have been covered by the likes of John Mayall, Free, Electric Flag and
WEA/Atlantic/Rhino issued The Very Best of Albert King on Tuesday. The CD
includes such tracks as "Blues Power" and
HREF="http://www.sonicnet.com/artists/clip.cgi?track=%7El- XXXXXX%2F1577515772000a01.ra&x=7&y=6">"Personal Manager"
(RealAudio excerpt), the cut that was the basis for Clapton's solo on Cream's
HREF="http://www.sonicnet.com/artists/clip.cgi?track=%7Ep- XXXXXX%2F0032672_0114_00_0002.ra&x=2&y=8">"Strange Brew"
Other birthdays: Jerry Leiber, 66; Stu Cook (Creedence Clearwater Revival), 54; Bjorn
Ulvaeus (ABBA), 54; Michael Brown (Left Banke), 50; Steven Ferrone (Average White
Band), 49; Cory Daye (Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band), 47; Andy Bell (Erasure),
35; Eric Avery (Jane's Addiction), 34; and Ella Fitzgerald, 1917-1996.