Few guitarists have had such an impact on the blues as Albert King. His excellent technique, characteristic bends, and deep, soulful voice distinguishes him as one of the most distinctive and brilliant artists of his time. Despite various hurdles in his life, he stayed committed to his work and inspired innumerable fans and fellow musicians.
1. Who Is Albert King?
Albert King (1923-1992) was a blues guitarist and vocalist from the United States who was recognized for his loud voice and unusual guitar technique. He was born in Mississippi and relocated to Memphis, Tennessee in the 1950s, where he rose to prominence in the local blues scene.
King is most known for his usage of the Gibson Flying V guitar, which he played backwards and left-handed. His sound was defined by a blend of deep, soulful voice and expressive guitar playing with long, sustained notes and a characteristic vibrato. Many guitarists, including Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, were influenced by him.
Among his most well-known songs are “Born Under a Bad Sign,” “The Hunter,” and “Crosscut Saw.” King’s music continues to inspire and influence generations of artists, and he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
2. 5 Facts About Albert King
- Albert Nelson King was born on April 25, 1923, in Indianola, Mississippi. He was raised in a sharecropper family and began playing guitar as a kid.
- In the early 1950s, King relocated to Memphis, Tennessee, and became a frequent performer at the city’s legendary blues bars, particularly the Beale Street clubs. In 1953, he secured his first record contract with the Parrot label.
- King’s guitar playing style was distinctive in that he played left-handed and upside-down, with the high E string at the bottom. He used a Gibson Flying V guitar as his signature instrument.
- King’s 1967 album “Born Under a Bad Sign” is regarded as a blues classic, featuring some of his most renowned songs, including the title tune, “Crosscut Saw,” and “The Hunter.”
- Many other guitarists, including Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, were influenced by King. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1983, and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame posthumously in 2013.
3. What Are Albert King Best Songs?
Albert King has so many amazing songs over his career that it’s impossible to pick just a handful. Here are some of his most well-known and impactful songs:
- “Born Under a Bad Sign”
- “The Sky Is Crying”
- “Crosscut Saw”
- “As the Years Go Passing By”
- “I’ll Play the Blues for You”
- “Oh, Pretty Woman”
- “Laundromat Blues”
- “Personal Manager”
- “Blues Power”
- “Don’t Throw Your Love on Me So Strong”
These songs highlight King’s particular guitar technique, passionate voice, and ability to communicate profound emotion via music. They impacted generations of blues and rock performers and are still adored by fans today.
4. What was Albert King famous for?
Albert King was a well-known blues guitarist and singer recognized for his strong voice, expressive guitar playing, and distinct playing style. He played the guitar upside down and left-handed, with the high E string at the bottom. He used a Gibson Flying V guitar as his signature instrument.
King was known for his heartfelt and emotive approach to blues music, which was distinguished by lengthy, sustained notes and a characteristic tremolo. Many other guitarists, including Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, were influenced by him.
Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, and the Bar-Kays were among the musicians with whom King collaborated. His 1967 album “Born Under a Bad Sign” is regarded as a blues classic, containing some of his most recognized songs, including the title track, “Crosscut Saw,” and “The Hunter.” As one of the most important blues guitarists of all time, King’s legacy continues to inspire and influence future generations of artists.
5. What Happened When King Albert Died?
Albert King died on December 21, 1992, leaving a tremendous legacy in the world of blues music. Fans and other artists alike lamented his demise, recognizing his enormous talent and commitment to the genre.
Following his death, multiple memorial concerts in his honor were staged, with performances by a diverse spectrum of performers, including B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Bonnie Raitt. In addition, several musicians made renditions of his songs to honor his influence and legacy.
Albert King has been remembered as one of the finest blues guitarists of all time in the years after his death. He was elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame posthumously in 2013, and his music continues to inspire and influence future generations of artists.
6. How Did Albert King Pass Away?
Albert King died of a heart attack on December 21, 1992. At the time of his death, he was 69 years old.
King had a lengthy history of cardiac issues and had died from a heart attack some years before. Despite his health issues, he continued to perform and create music throughout his life, with his most recent CD, “Red House,” published just a few months before his death.
Albert King’s reputation as one of the greatest blues guitarists of all time continues to inspire and influence new generations of artists, despite his premature demise. His music is still highly praised, and his distinct style and strong voice are acknowledged as the blues genre’s defining sound.
7. Why Was Albert King Not Called King?
Albert King’s birth name was actually Albert Nelson. He adopted the name “King” as a stage name early in his career, but he was not actually a member of any royal family or aristocracy.
The rationale for his choice of the stage name “King” is not totally apparent. According to some reports, it was a tribute to his imposing presence and regal manner on stage, while others believe it was merely a distinctive and memorable moniker that would help him stand out in the extremely competitive music industry. Regardless of the cause, the name “Albert King” became associated with blues guitar mastery, and he is acknowledged today as one of his generation’s best performers.
8. Did Albert King play a Flying V?
Yes, Albert King was well-known for his use of a Gibson Flying V guitar, which became synonymous with his image as a musician. He played the guitar upside down, with the bass strings on top, which gave him a distinct sound and playing technique that helped him establish himself as one of the best blues guitarists of all time. The Flying V’s substantial mahogany body and two humbucking pickups provided King with a strong and unique tone that distinguished him from other blues guitarists, and his usage of the guitar helped to solidify its status as an iconic instrument in the worlds of blues and rock music.