Remembering Albert King

Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Remembering Albert King

On this day in 1992, one of the great blues guitarists of the 20th century died. He was born with the last name of Nelson, but when he started his music career in earnest, he opted to use only his first and middle names: Albert King. In celebration of his life and career, we invite you to give his classic album BORN UNDER A BAD SIGN another spin – or possibly a first spin if you’ve never gotten around to listening it – but we’ve also got a six-pack of other interesting appearances that King made over the course of his career, so that you can get a feel for just how respected his guitar skills were in the music community.

1. Leo’s Five, “Hold It” – If you lived in East St. Louis in the early 1960s, you couldn’t help but know who Leo Gooden was, if only because he was all over the place, serving not only as a singer but also as a businessman, club owner, and even a politician. He never really achieved national success, but this single got a certain amount of attention after the fact, thanks to King’s guest guitar work.

2. John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, “Call It Stormy Monday” – Mayall was an avowed fan of King’s work from way back, even producing some material for him that was ultimately released under the title LOST SESSION. Unfortunately, the reason it bears that title is that it didn’t see release right away, and that’s because it’s just not that great an album. Thankfully, this track from King’s guest appearance at a 1982 Mayall concert, shows both artists in fine form.

3. Gary Moore, “Oh Pretty Woman” – First of all, no, it’s not the Roy Orbison song, although with that title, you’re forgiven for thinking that it is. In a 1991 interview with Alan Paul, King reflected on the experience of working with Moore. “I learned a few things from him, he learned a few things from me,” said King. “I told him to slow it down, double up on his so that you could feel what he’s doing. If you play too fast or too loud, you cancel yourself out. But Gary plays a whole lot of notes and still sounds good. Every now and then you’re bound to put them in place if you play enough.”

4. Stevie Ray Vaughn, “Pride and Joy” – As it happens, King also discusses his appreciation of Vaughn’s work in that same interview. “To me, Gary and Stevie Ray Vaughan were two of our best young players,” said King. “I was sure hurt when we lost Stevie. I really wanted to see him and Gary hook up together. I wanted to see that concert. I don’t care where it was; I would have caught a plane.”

5. Booker T. and the MG’s, “Born Under a Bad Sign” – In the late ‘60s, King was unafraid to hop onstage and guest on a few songs, and you can imagine that the artists who were fortunate enough to have him sitting in couldn’t have been more thrilled about it. Take, for instance, the time King joined one of the greatest instrumental bands in rock history to jam.

6. The Doors, “Rock Me” – Jim Morrison enjoyed offering up his interpretation of the blues when fronting The Doors, and his bandmates backed him quite ably, but you have to admit that hearing King delivering some scorching licks behind Morrison’s vocals is a pretty awesome combo.