Albert King, a big man, was one of the most influential blues guitarists of the post war period. With his pipe clenched firmly between his teeth and his trademark Flying V Gibson, he presented an imposing figure both onstage and off. His unique guitar style has been a major influence on countless blues musicians and his licks can be heard in the playing of such guitarists as Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Rush, Mike Bloomfield and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Born in Indianola Mississippi in 1923, Albert grew up in Osceola, Kansas listening to gospel and blues. He didn't get his first guitar until he was 18, although his interest in music had led him to fashion makeshift instruments from wire and pieces of wood several years earlier.
King sang and played in various gospel groups around Osceola and later made radio broadcasts with the In The Groove Boys a local R&B group. He moved north to Gary Indiana in 1952 where he ended up playing drums in Jimmy Reed's band. He did not forsake the guitar and in 1953 successfully auditioned for Parrot Records and cut his first records on guitar and vocals for that label.
Albert King of course went on to make a series of seminal blues albums for Stax Records during the mid-60s and early 70s and it for these recordings that he is principally known. However apart from Parrot and Stax, Albert also recorded for many other labels including Bobbin, King, Coun-tree and Tomato.
This CD deals with the period between 1959 and 1963 when he recorded for Bobbin Records. Albert had moved to St Louis and was playing the clubs around that city with his band. It was during this time that he developed his unique and unusual guitar style and these records show that style developing.
Albert was left-handed but he learned to play with a guitar strung in the conventional manner for a right-handed guitarist. He plucked the strings with his left hand, using his right hand to hold down the chords. Albert who worked as a bulldozer driver before turning professional had exceptionally strong hands and this meant that he could bend the strings with ease. As his guitar was strung with the lightest strings (G & B) uppermost, Albert pulled the string downwards to create the wailing "blue" notes that were central to his sound. Guitarists playing in the conventional manner push the lightest strings upwards and this subtle difference helped King to develop his unique sound.
Albert's unusual fingering allowed him to develop a devastating technique in which searing sustained blue notes were produced by bending single strings and sustaining the note using an undercurrent of feedback from his amplifier speakers. These sustained "blue" notes were usually incorporated into long cascading single string runs to great effect.
Albert's recordings for Bobbin, commencing in 1959, show his style developing with his growing confidence and experience. His third record for the label in 1961, Don't Throw Your Love On Me So Strong picked up heavy local airplay and Bobbin Records owner Bob Lyons decided to lease the side to King Records to capitalise on this. The record went on to peak at #14 on the Billboard R&B chart and helped to establish Albert King and his band.
In 1963, Albert was signed direct to King Records via his Bobbin deal and although he only cut one session at King, the company acquired the entire Bobbin back catalogue of masters. Many of these were released on Albert's first album The Big Blues on the King label [King LP 852] in 1964. Now for the first time all of Albert King's historic Bobbin recordings are being made available on one CD, a total of 22 tracks including alternate takes.
By Ted Carroll