Albert King

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

recorded there).

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

others.

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"

(RealAudio excerpt).

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.