Mississippi Writers and Musicians
MISSISSIPPI MUSICIANS: Albert King


Albert King Albert King

Major Works

  • The Big Blues
  • Teaseling to California
  • Born Under a Bad sign
  • Live Wire/ Blues Power
  • Albert King Does the King Thing 
  • I’ll Play the Blues for You
  • Truckload of Lovin’
  • Albert
  • New Orleans Heat
  • The Pinch
  • Master Works
  • Blues for Elvis
  • San Francisco ‘83
  • I’m in a Phone Booth, Baby
  • I Wanna Get Funky
  • Blues at Sunrise
  • Door to Door
  • Laundromat Blues
  • Watt Stax
  • Years Gone By 

Stax Records

Born Under a Bad Sign, 1967
Live Wire/Blues Power, 1968
Albert King does the King Thing, 1968 Albert King
I play the Blues for You, 1972
The Pinch, 1978
Blues for Elvis, 1983
I wanna get Funky, 1987
Blues at Sunrise, 1988
Watt Stax
Years Gone By

Utopia Records

Truckload of Lovin', 1976
Albert, 1977
Fantasy Records
San Francisco '83, 1983
I'm in a Phone Booth Baby, 1984
The Lost Session, 1986 

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Albert King: A Biography
By Bonita Garner (SHS)

Albert King (Albert Nelson) was born on the 25 of April 1923 (some sources say 1924) in Indianola, Mississippi. King is the son of Mary Blevins, a church singer, and the stepson of Will Nelson, an itinerant preacher (LaBlanc 120).  King moved from Mississippi to Osceola, Arkansas,  where he grew up on a farm (Swell and Dwight 329).

King is a self-taught guitar player who learned how to play on his one string “diddley-bow” (Tour Part 1).  At the age of six, King had only a cigar box guitar. Twelve years later  King got  his first real guitar, which only cost him one dollar and twenty-five cents. King had a unique playing style. He played upside-down, so it was harder for him to learn his chords. In spite of this,  King kept on doing his thing. He was also strongly influenced by  Elmore James, Robert Nighthawk, and Howlin' Wolf . (LaBanc 119).

When King felt that he played well enough,  he performed with the Yancey’s Band, but he  kept his day job as a bulldozer driver.  In addition to his performing with the Yancey’s Band,  he sat in with the the Grove Boys.  Afterwards he moved to South Bend, Indiana, and sang with the Harmony Boys.  He next went to  Chicago, where he got an offer to play for Bluesman Jimmy Reed as well as Brook Benton and Jackie Wilson (LaBlanc 119).Bonita Garner, SHS

King  talked the Parrot label owner Al Benson into recording his songs.  Some of his singles on this label were Bad Luck Blues and Be on Your Merry Way.  King made little money ($14), so he left the label.  Six years later King signed with the Bobbin and King labels.  With these labels, he had over a dozen singles released.  The song Don’t Throw Your Love on Me So Strong, became  number fourteen on the top twenty blues hit list.  He also had a minor hit I’m a Lonely Man.  King stayed with this label from 1959-1962.  However, he also left this label because he was under paid ($800).  King's biggest success came when he signed with Stax Records.  He had a lot of records produced and worked with many people.  He became a major blues figure at  this time (Albert King-1).  Many people such as Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and the late Mike Bloomfield tried to figure out the secret to King’s playing style.  “He can take four notes and write a volume,” Bloomfield said to guitar players (LaBlanc 120). When King left Stax Records,  he signed with Utopia Records.  Here  his songs  Truckload of Lovin’ and  Albert  were  produced.  King made the best move for his career  when he signed with the Fantasy label.  San Francisco ‘83 and I’m in A Phone Booth, Baby are  two blues classics released while with them. (LaBlanc 120).  King performed at the Filmore West Concert in 1968,  where King stole the show.  After this performance King was named “The most-imitated blues guitarist in the world.”  (Historical Tour Part 1).

King was one of the first Rhythm and Blues singers to play with a symphony.  He recorded with the St. Louis Symphony and  brought together  blues and classical music (Albert King-2).  Albert King also performed on  Sunday, January 28, 1973, at Jackson, Mississippi’s white First Baptist Church,  where several (Black) people were not allowed to attend the Sunday worship,  including  the wife of the white civil rights attorney Frank Parken (Swell and Dwight 329).

In 1983,  Albert King was inducted into the W. C. Handy International Blues Awards Hall of Fame (LaBlanc 120).  King won  two Grammy-nominated songs:   San Francisco ‘83 and I’m in A Phone Booth Baby.  Both  nominations were in 1984 (LaBlanc 121).  He was also inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1983. (Albert King, 2).

King died of a heart attack on December 21, 1992.  Many musicians and fans mourned his death across the country (The Ultimate C...).  Even though King was sometimes looked over because of the similarity of his name to B. B. King's, he was  a great performer.  King proved his greatness with  hard work and many accomplishments. One critic has said of him: King was  “one of the most influential blues guitarist ever.  One of the three Kings of the electric blues guitar.” (Morgan 1)  Another said,  “Albert King was one of the players who defined post -World War II electric blues.” (The ultimate C...) 

Albert King: A Biography
By Courtney Rice (SHS)

Albert King was one of the most influential and talented, blues musicians of all time. Albert King (Albert Nelson) was born on April 25, 1923, (1924 some sources vary) in Indianola, Mississippi, he but resided in Oseola, Arkansas.  As a child King taught himself how to play on a homemade guitar. This left-handed guitar pudgy played his instrument up side down. Later, King created a guitar from a cigar box. Then King became known as the "Velvet Bulldozer". Courtney Rice, SHS.  Photo by N. JacobsDuring the 1940's King played the guitar with Yancy's Band and the Groove Boys.  As a result of this King got his first taste of the recording industry in 1953 with Parrot owner, Al Benson.  King's first top hit was 'Walking from Door to Door' and 'Lonesome in my Bed', which sold over thirty-five thousand copies.  King signed with Stax Records in 1966.  In 1968, King was offered a lucrative sum of sixteen thousand by a concert promoter Bill Graham. Meanwhile King left Stax Records and then signed with Utopia Records where he got over produced and cheated out his money.  Lastly King signed with Fantasy Label.

King did not receive many awards. The only known one was induction into W.C. Handy International Blues Awards Hall of Fame in 1983 (Lablanc, 119-121).  "Although it has been over five years since King's last album, his sound has been kept alive through constant touring" (Stone, Contemporary Musicians, Volume Two). However, before King's next tour, he died in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1992, of a heart attack (Larkin, 2309).  Albert King was called "the most-imitated blues guitarist in the world" (http://www.st-louis.mo.us/st-louis/walkofame/inductees/king.html).

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Timeline
by Bonita Garner

1923 (or 1924): April 23:   Albert King was born in Indianola, Mississippi.

1941:    King purchased his first six-string guitar from a friend for only one dollar and  twenty-five cents.

1940’s:  King played guitar with Yancy’s Band and the In the Grove Boys; he was a singer with the gospel group The Harmony  Boys; he also worked as a drummer for Jimmy Reed,  Brook Benton, and Jackie Wilson.

1953:     First songs recorded Walking From Door to Door, Lonesome in My Bed, and  Bad Luck Blues.

1959-1962:  Over a dozen singles were released on the Bobbin and King labels.

1961:  Don’t Throw Your Love on Me so Strong was a Top Twenty Rhythm and Blues hit

1966:  King signed with Stax Records

1967:  Born Under a Bad Sign was his debut album with Stax.

Albert King, Born Under a Bad Sign

1968:  Performed at the San Francisco Filmore West.  He opened for John Mayal and  Jimmy Hendrix.

1969:  King became the first blues guitarist to perform with a symphony.  He also took  night classes  in music theory.

1983:  After a five-year recording drought King signed with the Fantasy label.  He got two Grammy nominations  and was inducted into the W. C. Handy International Blues Awards Hall of Fame.

1983-1992:  King recorded many songs.

1992:  King died before he was going to go on  tour in Europe. 

Timeline
by Courtney Rice

1923 or 1924?  Albert King  (Albert Nelson) was born in Indianola, Mississippi, and raised in Osceola, Arkansas.

1940's:  Albert King worked as a bulldozer driver. During that time he also was learning to play guitar and played
with the Yancy's Band and the Groove Boys.

Early 1950's:  King worked with a group called the Groove Boys before migrating north and ending up in Gary,
Indiana.

1953:  King got his first taste of recording industry entered the record company Parrot by Al Benson.

1956:  King moved to Lovejoy, Illinois

1959:  Had a minor hit on Bobbin with 'I'm a Lonely Man'

1959-1962:  King with Bobbin label released over a dozen singles

1961:  Made it to number fourteen on R&B charts

1966:  King signed with Stax Records, and he became a major blues figure.

1968:  King was offered $16,000 for three-night stand at San Francisco's Fillmore West.

1969:  The first blues guitarist to perform with a symphony and even took night classes.

1970s:  Played to rock and soul crowds

1974:  King left Stax Records for Tomato and Fantasy Labels.

1976:  King declared war.

1980's to early 1990's:  King continued touring, playing festivals and concerts.

1983:  King received a W.C. Handy International Blues Awards Hall of Fame.

1983:  His five-year recording famine ended.

1990:  King was guest on guitarist Gary Moore's 'back-to-the-roots collection'

1992: King died of a heart attack in Memphis, Tennessee.      

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Related Websites

Last known photo of Albert King.
Albert King was the best blues master in the world.
Three photos by Dan of Albert King.
Bass tab index for Born Under a Bad Sign by Albert King
This is a great site which lets you listen to clips of ALL of King's songs on his albums.
Blues man Albert King was one of the premier electric guitar stylists of the post-World War II period.
Attractive site lists albums and songs titles by King.
Of the triumvirate of guitar playing Blues "Kings," Albert King's style is one of the most easily  identified and widely copied in Blues. Get Funky by Albert King
Finally after years of being out of print, Albert King's masterpiece originally issued on Stax Records in 1967,  BORN UNDER A BAD SIGN has made it to CD in a release that's exclusive to Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs
I took these photos early in December 1992 at Kimball's East in  Emeryville California at one of his last shows.
Review of  King's Born Under a Bad Sign by Ken Barnes.

This web site of Albert King provides a picture, personal information, and about his career.

This web site includes the life span and career of Albert King.


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Bibliography

Albert King Historical Tour Part 1.  http://www.st- louis.mo.us/st-louis/walkofame/inductees/king.html. April 24,1998.

Albert King.  http://www.blueflamecafe.com/Albert_King.html.  April 24,1998.

Erlewine, Daniel. "All Music Guide". Volume 1. n. pag.

Feature Artist- Albert King: The Ultimate C.   http://www.rhino.com/features/71268.html.  April 24,1998.

Lablanc, Michael. Contemporary Musicians. Volume 2. 1990. 119-121.

LaBlanc, Michael L.  Contemporary Musicians. Vol. 6. United States, 1990. 

Larkin, Colin.  The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music.  New York: Stockton  Press, 1990.

Larkin, Colin. "Popular Music". The Guinness Encyclopedia. 1995. Volume 3. 2308-2309.

Morgan, John. http://www.hub.org/bluesnet/artist/albert.king.html.

Stone, Calen D. Contemporary Musicians. December 1989. Volume 2.

Swell, George A. and Margaret L. Dwight. United States, 1984

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