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Albert King & Stevie Ray Vaughan

Albert King is truly a "King of the Blues," although he doesn't hold that title (B.B. does). Along with B.B. and Freddie King, Albert King is one of the major influences on blues and rock guitar players. Without him, modern guitar music would not sound as it does -- his style has influenced both black and white blues players from Otis Rush and Robert Cray to Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan. It's important to note that while almost all modern blues guitarists seldom play for long without falling into a B.B. King guitar cliché, Albert King never does -- he's had his own style and unique tone from the beginning.

Albert King plays guitar left-handed, without re-stringing the guitar from the right-handed setup; this "upside-down" playing accounts for his difference in tone, since he pulls down on the same strings that most players push up on when bending the blues notes. King's massive tone and totally unique way of squeezing bends out of a guitar string has had a major impact. Many young white guitarists -- especially rock & rollers -- have been influenced by King's playing, and many players who emulate his style may never have heard of Albert King, let alone heard his music. His style is immediately distinguishable from all other blues guitarists, and he's one of the most important blues guitarists to ever pick up the electric guitar.

Born in Indianola, MS, but raised in Forrest City, AR, Albert King (born Albert Nelson) taught himself how to play guitar when he was a child, building his own instrument out of a cigar box. At first, he played with gospel groups -- most notably the Harmony Kings -- but after hearing Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lonnie Johnson, and several other blues musicians, he solely played the blues. In 1950, he met MC Reeder, who owned the T-99 nightclub in Osceola, AR. King moved to Osceola shortly afterward, joining the T-99's house band, the In the Groove Boys. The band played several local Arkansas gigs besides the T-99, including several shows for a local radio station.

After enjoying success in the Arkansas area, King moved to Gary, IN, in 1953, where he joined a band that also featured Jimmy Reed and John Brim. Both Reed and Brim were guitarists, which forced King to play drums in the group. At this time, he adopted the name Albert King, which he assumed after B.B. King's "Three O'Clock Blues" became a huge hit. Albert met Willie Dixon shortly after moving to Gary, and the bassist/songwriter helped the guitarist set up an audition at Parrot Records. King passed the audition and cut his first session late in 1953. Five songs were recorded during the session and only one single, "Be on Your Merry Way" / "Bad Luck Blues," was released; the other tracks appeared on various compilations over the next four decades. Although it sold respectably, the single didn't gather enough attention to earn him another session with Parrot. In early 1954, King returned to Osceola and re-joined theIn the Groove Boys; he stayed in Arkansas for the next two years.

In 1956, Albert moved to St. Louis, where he initially sat in with local bands. By the fall of 1956, King was headlining several clubs in the area. King continued to play the St. Louis circuit, honing his style. During these years, he began playing his signature Gibson Flying V, which he named Lucy. By 1958, Albert was quite popular in St. Louis, which led to a contract with the fledgling Bobbin Records in the summer of 1959. On his first Bobbin recordings, King recorded with a pianist and a small horn section, which made the music sound closer to jump blues than Delta or Chicago blues. Nevertheless, his guitar was taking a center stage and it was clear that he had developed a unique, forceful sound. King's records for Bobbin sold well in the St. Louis area, enough so that King Records leased the "Don't Throw Your Love on Me So Strong" single from the smaller label. When the single was released nationally late in 1961, it became a hit, reaching number 14 on the R&B charts. King Records continued to lease more material from Bobbin -- including a full album, Big Blues, which was released in 1963 -- but nothing else approached the initial success of "Don't Throw Your Love on Me So Strong." Bobbin also leased material to Chess, which appeared in the late '60s.

Albert King left Bobbin in late 1962 and recorded one session for King Records in the spring of 1963, which were much more pop-oriented than his previous work; the singles issued from the session failed to sell. Within a year, he cut four songs for the local St. Louis independent label Coun-Tree, which was run by a jazz singer named Leo Gooden. Though these singles didn't appear in many cities -- St. Louis, Chicago, and Kansas City were the only three to register sales -- they foreshadowed his coming work with Stax Records. Furthermore, they were very popular within St. Louis, so much so that Gooden resented King's success and pushed him off the label.

Following his stint at Coun-Tree, Albert King signed with Stax Records in 1966. Albert's records for Stax would bring him stardom, both within blues and rock circles. All of his '60s Stax sides were recorded with the label's house band, Booker T. & the MG's, which gave his blues a sleek, soulful sound. That soul underpinning gave King crossover appeal, as evidenced by his R&B chart hits -- "Laundromat Blues" (1966) and "Cross Cut Saw" (1967) both went Top 40, while "Born Under a Bad Sign" (1967) charted in the Top 50. Furthermore, King's style was appropriated by several rock & roll players, most notably Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, who copied Albert's "Personal Manager" guitar solo on the Cream song, "Strange Brew." Albert King's first album for Stax, 1967's Born Under a Bad Sign, was a collection of his singles for the label and became one of the most popular and influential blues albums of the late '60s. Beginning in 1968, Albert King was playing not only to blues audiences, but also to crowds of young rock & rollers. He frequently played at the Fillmore West in San Francisco and he even recorded an album, Live Wire/Blues Power, at the hall in the summer of 1968.

Early in 1969, King recorded Years Gone By, his first true studio album. Later that year, he recorded a tribute album to Elvis Presley (Blues for Elvis: Albert King Does the King's Things) and a jam session with Steve Cropper and Pops Staples (Jammed Together), in addition to performing a concert with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. For the next few years, Albert toured America and Europe, returning to the studio in 1971, to record the Lovejoy album. In 1972, he recorded I'll Play the Blues for You, which featured accompaniment from the Bar-Kays, the Memphis Horns, and the Movement. The album was rooted in the blues, but featured distinctively modern soul and funk overtones.

By the mid-'70s, Stax was suffering major financial problems, so King left the label for Utopia, a small subsidiary of RCA Records. Albert released two albums on Utopia, which featured some concessions to the constraints of commercial soul productions. Although he had a few hits at Utopia, his time there was essentially a transitional period, where he discovered that it was better to follow a straight blues direction and abandon contemporary soul crossovers. King's subtle shift in style was evident on his first albums for Tomato Records, the label he signed with in 1978. Albert stayed at Tomato for several years, switching to Fantasy in 1983, releasing two albums for the label.

In the mid-'80s, Albert King announced his retirement, but it was short-lived -- Albert continued to regularly play concerts and festivals throughout America and Europe for the rest of the decade. King continued to perform until his sudden death in 1992, when he suffered a fatal heart attack on December 21. The loss to the blues was a major one -- although many guitarists have tried, no one can replace King's distinctive, trailblazing style. Albert King is a tough act to follow. ~ Daniel Erlewine & Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Comments

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Albert King And Stevie Ray Vaughan Were The Best !
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Only the best in blues. ..listen to those guitarists play. ...
.
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CLASSIC MATCH UP!!! IT'S AMAZING HOW MANY PEOPLE DON'T REALIZE THAT ALL THE BIG TIME BRITS!! CAME HERE TO STUDY THE OLD TIME BLUES GUYZ!!!!!! ESPECIALLY THE YOUNGER CREW!! K.W. SHEPARD PUT OUT AN AMAZING DVD/CD ON RESEARCHING THE OLD TIME GREATS!!!! AWESOME!! THANX!! D.K.
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One can certainly recognize Albert King's guitar soloing influence on Stevie Ray's style. Two legends that I could listen to all day--collect i v e l y or individually .
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I'm left handed, and it's got me wanting go back and learn to play again
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Man what great music they can sure jam
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jamieb12871
Send us another "1" please
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Nobody bent notes like deez guys
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That's some corvette drivin music
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Ettajames
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This is it ,what's left to say! !!
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I listen to all types of music. But I always find my way back to the blues kings when I need to mellow out. Fantastic.
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ONE AWESOME ARTIST...VER Y POWERFUL BIO..THANKS
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The absolutely finest blues guitarist of all time!!!SRVli v e s
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heaven on earth, oh my
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Outstanding! !
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WOW!!!!!
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Mmmmmm Hmmmmm.... Nice!
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❤️ Hearing a Stevie Ray & Albert King Jam ... Whew...! just
MADE MY NIGHT !!!!!!
Just hoping they are doing the same in Glory ❤️
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Just to have been a fly on the wall for these sessions!! Well just think about it!?
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sahweise
RIP STEVIE!!!!!
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sahweise
THIS MUSIC IS FOR THE SOUL!!!!
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brziegler200 8 9
last Stevie Ray show I saw was at Mann Music Center in Philly, Joe Cocker opened for him.......oh hell yes, what a great night, that was week or so before he passed....RI P
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Can't imagine what Stevie would be ding to the world of music if he was still with us. RIP
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Music that reaches right down into your soul and shakes it to it's core..Stevie Ray Vaughn and Albert King..two of the greatest Blues legends ..Wow.
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When we heard Stevie was gone I was at the Katmando Lounge in Purior Tenn. It was total shock and complete silence in one of the raucous bars on the planet! It was hard to listen to him for a long time!
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jamieb12871
Led me 2 aSRV in '83 ...from there 'til the day he left us (Jr.high/hig h school)& of course still today...it's different having them gone(2many2l i s t ) t h o u g h . . . y o u know you'll never c them,again,o r play!
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jamieb12871
He's responsible 4 everything I love(in blues)....I got into my uncle's records & about the 3rd one in...BORN UNDER A BAD SIGN ...later I saw him on channel
13ZPBS '83 SRV&
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Good blues make me feel better ��
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msdeelight19 5 9
In my younger years I thought The Blues were for old people. Well, just call me ancient, cause its nothing like The Blues.
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My FAVS!!! NEVER gets old..wish I could have seen them.:-(
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Albert King and SRV brings the blues into the heart and soul I can never get enough
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spoilm529
..!l!!m! M
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Beautiful. This just doesn't get old.
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ALL I CAN SAY IS GET BACK!
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BB took my Blues cherry, and it takes a secure man who can be reduced to blubbering tears , but Albert is another one who touches that special place. I lost the ability to play in the 60s ,but my heart is full of the music....peo p l e around me say I bother them with my constant humming....o o p s , s o r r y , go live a real life..
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Born-under-a - b a d - s i g n
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hoguegregg61
You got to love the blues
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Can't touch or come near the way they string
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Yes, that's right...What Mister Coleman alluded to. Heavenly!!!
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Finger speed board knowledge precision progressions , etheral
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i saw stevie at hostra university 300 people show,,,,,,,, , , , m a n i am old
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luckyheartz7 7
Most amazing and gifted. Forever<3
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cdangel1969
Blues is the best music for your soul along with good DANK, and it makes even better...
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Soulful and true blues.No one can come close.
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Yes it does heal the soul
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cinlamar
I am spellbound
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helps me with healing my soul
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This is what heaven sounds like
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Hope Johnny is hanging with the Kings, Muddy and SRV
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