Albert King has influenced several generations of great musicians, including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan (who called him “Daddy”), and Robert Cray. He was a favorite guitarist of John Lee Hooker, and BB King wrote in his autobiography: “He wasn’t my brother in blood, but he sure was my brother in blues.” Albert King was inducted into the Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame in 1983. In 2011, the Rolling Stone listed King as 13th of the 100 best guitarists of all time.
Albert King Biography
“He was not my blood brother, but certainly my blues brother,” writes BB King about his namesake Albert in his autobiography “Blues All Around Me.” A sentence that says a lot about a legendary guitarist who, alongside BB and Freddie, is one of the “three kings of the blues.”
Albert King was born in Indianola, Mississippi, in 1923 with the last name Nelson. As a teenager, he taught himself to play the guitar on instruments he had built himself. Lonnie Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson are considered to be his role models. The left-hander does not hold his first real guitar in his hands until he is 18 but strings it like a right-hander, i.e., with the thinnest string on top. His preferred instrument is the Gibson Flying V, later one of the metal scene’s favorite guitars, which he calls “Lucy.”
With two meters and a particular body, he gives an impressive picture on stage. Its nickname is “Velvet Bulldozer” – also because it initially earned its living as a mechanic for construction equipment. After gaining his first experience as a professional musician with Jimmy Reed, he moved to Chicago in 1953, where he recorded his first single under his name. But it wasn’t until 1961 that he succeeded in achieving success with his music – “Don’t Throw Your Love On Me So Strong” made it into the Billboard charts, and in 1962 his first album, “The Big Blues,” was released.
At this point, King is almost 40. In the Midwest, he is a well-known figure who travels around with his band, but he receives little national attention. That only changed when he moved to Memphis in 1966 and signed a contract with Stax Records. He works as a session musician with Booker T. & The MGs and in 1967 releases his second album, “Born Under A Bad Sign,” the title track of which becomes King’s most famous piece.
“Live Wire / Blues Power” (1968) is a testament to his explosive stage show. It develops into a source of inspiration among aspiring guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Gary Moore or Stevie Ray Vaughan. Suddenly, King is a sought-after man who is on stage with the Doors in Canada in 1970.
By the end of the 80s, King recorded more albums, but they met with less and less response. But he remains a sought-after performer in the USA and Europe, even if he struggled with health problems from the end of the 80s.
Albert King died of a heart attack in his Memphis home on December 21, 1992, two days after a Los Angeles concert. “Albert can tell books with four notes. He manages to say more with just a few notes than anyone else I know,” said colleague Mike Bloomfield of him.