Albert King was born in Mississippi in 1923. His family moved to Arkansas when he was young, where they worked the cotton plantations. In the early 50s he took up the blues guitar. He left the cotton fields behind to go north, spending time in Indiana, Missouri and finally settling in Chicago. He became a very skilled electric guitarist, with a distinctive string-bending style. He was also memorable in appearance, being 6ft 4, smoking a pipe and playing a Flying V guitar. His first single was released in 1953, but it wasn't until almost ten years afterwards that he finally had a hit - "Don't Throw Your Love On Me So Strong" was a #15 R&B hit in 1961, on Cincinnati-based King Records. An album called The Big Blues was released in 1962, which compiled singles from this era, and saw King playing in a jazzy horn-driven style.
1966 saw him move to Memphis and sign with Stax Records, and it was here that he finally made his mark. He recorded a series of fine singles backed by the Stax house band Booker T & The MGs, which charted modesty on the R&B charts - "Laundromat Blues" at #29, "Crosscut Saw" at #34 and "Born Under A Bad Sign" at #49. In 1967 Stax released the Born Under A Bad Sign album, and revealed in full the new style they had helped craft for King - a sparse, clean, modern R&B sound. His guitar and smoky voice were front and centre, with tight backing from The MGs and The Memphis Horns. This album contained many classics, included the title song, written by Booker T Jones and singer William Bell, which became King's signature tune.
Though it wasn't much of a chart success, the album turned out to be massively influential, especially among the young rock & roll crowd, many of whom had only just heard of Albert King. At age forty-four he had finally achieved widespread popularity, and Born Under A Bad Sign turned out to be one of the most important blues albums of the late 60s.
The Big Blues (1962) <|> Live Wire/Blues Power (1968)
More from Albert King