Albert King

Albert King’s rich blues legacy includes gems such as “Born Under A Bad Sign”, “Blues Power”, “Crosscut Saw”, “The Sky is Falling”, “Don't Throw Your Love on Me So Strong”, and “As The Years Go Passing By”.  Known as one of the “Three Kings of the Blues” along with B.B King and Freddie King, his single-string solos were legendary, and his silky vocals, wild string bends and blues licks have influenced artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Lee Hooker, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and many others. King was also called the “Velvet Bulldozer”, and was instrumental in helping develop an interest in the blues beyond the initial African-American fan base. His songs “Blues Power” and “Born Under A Bad Sign” are among the “Classics of Blues Recordings”, while the artist was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1983.



King was born in Indianola, Mississippi, on April 25, 1923. His birth name was Albert Nelson and he was raised on a cotton plantation. King’s early days were spent picking cotton near Osceola, Arkansas, and signing in church. Music was very much a part of his childhood, as his father was a guitarist and the family listened to records of bluesmen like Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lonnie Johnson. King made his own guitars from diddley-bows and cigar boxes till he got his first real guitar when he was 19. He was known for his unusual tunings and playing a right-handed guitar upside down (he was left-handed). King’s signature instrument was a Gibson Flying V guitar that he fondly called “Lucy”. His career as a professional musician began first in St. Louis and then in Gary, Indiana, where he got the opportunity to jam with guitarists like Jimmy Reed and John Brim. He did the Chicago scene for a short while, and then returned to St. Louis in 1956. In between he recorded “Bad Luck Blues” and “Be On Your Merry Way” with Parrot in Chicago, and later with the labels Bobbin and King in St. Louis. “I'm a Lonely Man” was a minor hit in 1959 but it was his 1961 chart-topper “Don't Throw Your Love on Me So Strong” that brought him huge recognition.


King’s streak of success grew when he signed with the label Stax Records in 1966. His blues music with its touch of Memphis soul appealed to fans of other genres like rock and soul too. King was one of the first bluesmen who played at Fillmore West, San Francisco’s legendary rock venue, and was also on the debut bill. He performed with the St. Louis Symphony too, which made him one of the very first blues artists to record with a symphony orchestra. King continued touring and performing throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, till he succumbed to a heart attack on December 21, 1992, in Memphis, Tennessee. Though not related to the artist, B.B King had said this in his autobiography about Albert King – “He wasn't my brother in blood, but he sure was my brother in blues”.
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