He was born in the same fervid Mississippi Delta town of Indianola as another King of the Blues guitar, B.B. King. But where B.B. moved to the blues mecca of Memphis during the Second World War to establish his reign, Albert King (1923-1992) did not arrive there until more than a decade into his career in 1966. He was signed by Atlantic subsidiary Stax-Volt Records in the era when singles ruled and he had cut more than a dozen singles for various labels over the previous decade, most notably on King and Bobbin. His first Stax album was an influential collection that included “Born Under A Bad Sign,” “Crosscut Saw,” “As The Years Go Passing By” and his cover of Ivory Joe Hunter’s “I Almost Lost My Mind,” tracks mostly recorded with Booker T. and the MG’s as studio backup (with the Memphis Horns). Like B.B. and Freddie King, Albert King was thrust into the Fillmore generation when British acts like Cream and Jimi Hendrix adopted “Born Under A Bad Sign” (written by Booker T and William Bell), which became a rock anthem and a part of the rock and roll lexicon. The younger generation following them also discovered a mother lode of blues in Albert’s repertoire. In particular, Stevie Ray Vaughan was an avid follower, and as early as 1983, Vaughan was onstage with Albert in Canada for a set (released 16 years later) that included a 15-minute jam on “Blues At Sunrise.” At Vaughan’s insistence, their paths intersected frequently over the next decade. From Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield and Johnny Winter, to Joe Walsh, Vaughan, Derek Trucks and beyond, the influence of Albert King’s husky vocals and his signature Gibson Flying V guitar will live on forever.
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