Remembering Albert King on his birthday, as the years go passing by

Albert King was born on this day in 1923, the first of the "Three Kings of the Blues Guitar", followed by B.B. in 1925 and Freddie in 1934. He's best known for the 1967 Stax album he recorded with Booker T and the MGs, Born Under a Bad Sign, which featured such blues classics as the title track, "Oh Pretty Woman", "The Hunter", "Crosscut Saw", and my personal fave, "As the Years Go Passing By".

Famous for playing a Gibson Flying V left-handed, with the strings "upside-down", Albert was a major influence on such guitarists as Eric Clapton, Gary Moore, and especially Stevie Ray Vaughan, who would sometimes copy his solos note-for-note. Seven years after King's death from a heart attack in 1992 the album In Session was released, a live-in-the-studio recording from 1983 of he and Vaughan tearing it up on tracks like SRV's "Pride and Joy" and King's own "Blues at Sunrise". If you're a blues fan, you should have it in your collection, as well as the DVD.

Some Vancouverites may recall King from when he opened for the Doors at the Pacific Coliseum on June 6, 1970, and joined them onstage for a few songs. I was a little young to make that gig, but I count myself lucky for having seen him perform an outdoor show at the PNE in the late '80s, I think it was. I'd interviewed him on the phone a week or two prior, and used that fact as an excuse to weasel my way backstage and meet him in person, just as I'd done with Vaughan at the Coliseum back in '83. King seemed a little cranky at first--I don't think his health was so great at the time--but when he realized I was a serious blues lover he scribbled his name on the cover of my Albert King: Masterworks album from '82, and today that indecipherable bit of noodling is one of my most prized possessions.

Thanks Mr. King...or should I say Velvet Bulldozer. And happy birthday!

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You can follow Steve Newton on Twitter at @earofnewt.



Booker T

Apr 28, 2011 at 7:31am

When is this man gonna get in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame?!?

Steve Newton

May 2, 2011 at 4:58pm

the same could be said for Rush and Thin Lizzy!