King was truly a "King of the Blues," although he did not  hold that title (B.B. does).  Albert King was one of the major
influences on blues and rock guitar players. Without him, modern guitar music would not sound as it does -- his style
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 did.  He had his own style and unique tone from the beginning.

Albert King played guitar left-handed, without re-stringing the guitar from the right-handed setup; this "upside-down"
playing accounted for his difference in tone, since he pulled 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 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 was one of the most important blues guitarists to ever pick up the
electric guitar.

One of the "Three Kings of the Blues Guitar" (along with B. B. King and Freddie King), he stood 6' 4" and weighed 250 lbs  
and was known as "The Velvet Bulldozer". He was born Albert Nelson on a cotton plantation in Indianola, Mississippi.
During his childhood he would sing at a family gospel group at a church. He began his professional work as a musician
with a group called In The Groove Boys, in Osceola, Arkansas. He also briefly played drums for Jimmy Reed's band and on
several early Reed recordings. Influenced by blues musicians Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lonnie Johnson, but also
interestingly Hawaiian music, the electric guitar became his signature instrument, his preference being the Gibson Flying V,
which he named "Lucy".

In 1950, he met MC Reeder, who owned the T-99 nightclub in Osceola, Arkansas. 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, Indiana, 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 the In the Groove Boys; he
stayed in Arkansas for the next two years.

In 1956 he moved to Lovejoy, (Brooklyn) Illinois, across the river from St. Louis. King perfected his searing guitar sound
in the historic 1950s and 60s St. Louis blues and R&B scene. In 1966 he signed with the Stax label, where he recorded
such classics as "Crosscut Saw" and "Born Under A Bad Sign." After a legendary 1968 Fillmore West concert series and
recording, Albert King was called "the most-imitated blues guitarist in the world." 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

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. While at
Stax Records, Albert King became the manger of Shirley Brown.  King negotiated a recording deal with Stax Records in
Memphis and gained Brown national attention with the hit "Woman to Woman". She and Albert King often performed at
Brooklyn's Swank House Night Club.

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 1970s, 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- 1980s, 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 genre of 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.

Albert King has been honored by The Blues Foundation with his induction into their Hall of Fame. Both "Born Under A Bad
Sign" and "Live Wire / Blues Power" are also honored as Classics of Blues Recordings. But, the real honor for King is the
love and everlasting respect that so many of his peers have given him.
Albert King
04/25/1923 - 12/21/1992