Happy Birthday Albert King!

Albert King was one of the founding fathers of Electric Blues, and his instantly-recognizable sound has been a defining influence to countless artists. Because of his last name, Albert is affectionately known as one of the “three kings” of the Blues. The other two kings are, of course, B.B. King and Freddy King. Albert was a Mississippi native, and like so many other Mississippi, he was picking cotton. King, like many other Bluesmen from the area, made his own first guitar to learn to play, and he was quickly caught up into the Blues and made the trip to Chicago to pursue his musical ambitions. After ending up in Indiana, he played with Jimmy Reed before cutting his first record, which was of no success. Afterwards, he traveled about, cutting several other records of various popularity in Saint Louis before achieving his first Billboard hit, “Don’t Throw Your Love On Me So Strong”. In 1966, King signed a record deal with Memphis-based Stax Records, in 1966, a place he would become indelibly associated with for decades to come.

At Stax, King’s popularity skyrocketed. Stax Records had recorded several popular bluesmen, though none so successful as King, and the label was well known for it’s unique sound and it’s pioneering influence in Soul music, which is felt in King’s work. Albert, along with the famous house band Booker T. and the MGs, cut many of Kings biggest hits. His string bending, interesting tuning methods (standard, tuned two full steps down) and using an electric guitar were all rather progressive at the time, which gave Albert a unique, trademark sound that can be instantly identified to this day. In the late 1960s he pumped out hit after hit; “Crosscut Saw”, “I’ll Play the Blues for You”, and his biggest hit “Born Under a Bad Sign”. Many of King’s songs continue to be timeless Blues classics. His association with Stax lasted throughout his long and successful career, with the majority of his records coming under the Stax name.

Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan In SessionIn 1969, Albert King was the debut act at the legendary Fillmore West with Jimi Hendrix. Already a Blues giant, he went on to regularly play at large venues like the Fillmore, and enjoyed a long and successful career, playing with other household Blues names at countless festivals and recording regularly. His massive influence can be felt in a number of heavily Blues influenced rock groups today. Stevie Ray Vaughan, who played with King during one recorded session that was recently re-released, cited King as a major influence on his playing, as did Eric Clapton and Gary Moore, who had King guest star on his major hit album Still Got The Blues. Over his lifetime, Albert King recorded dozens of records, and in 1983 he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. King continued to recorded strenuously, right up until his death in Memphis, Tennessee from heart failure in 1992.

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About Matt Marshall

Matt Marshall is an avid blues music lover and the editor of the American Blues Scene. In any given year, you can find him at dozens of blues events or festivals across the country. Matt also manages the American Blues Scene's official shop, where you can find great blues t-shirts. You can find Bluescentric on Facebook