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Albert King: Blues for the Heart

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There is no doubt that when talking about blues, the name of the three “Kings” immediately comes into our minds: B.B, Freddie and Albert. The three of them are true stars and creators of blues. Nevertheless, each one has his own specialty. Albert King was definitely the master of the single-string attack. While growing up in a little town nearby Memphis and listening to some local Blues performers, Albert King felt the intrigue to explore more and more about blues.

On April 25, 1923, Albert Nelson was born in Indianola, Mississippi; the same town where another great star of blues, B.B King was born. Even though both musicians were not related, the same Albert King dared to claim than B.B was his half-brother. Albert King grew up picking up cotton in the Arkansas plantations, a place where his family moved in 1931. His first contact with music was while singing in church and listening to his father playing the guitar. Nevertheless, it was not until 1942 when Albert King obtained his very first guitar.

Albert King was a large man, whose left hand was to blame for his success. He taught himself how to play with the guitar upside down, while maintaining the strings strung for a right handed player and keeping his thumb opposed to a pick. Some of those who met him affirm he was a moody man who did not like to perform with musicians who were able to equal his work or better it. He was the sole commander in stage.

Albert King first recordings were released in 1953; the single “Bad Luck Blues” was a regional success. Nevertheless, King saw little money in return, reason why he decided to move back to St. Louis in 1956. It was in St. Louis where he found true success; with his single “Don’t Throw Your Love on Me So Strong” he found national recognition as the number #14 on the R&B Charts. In 1966, Albert King signed with Soul Label, Stax. After this contract, the star of good luck accompanied Albert for the rest of his life. Ever since, almost every single he recorded became quite a hit and he became an inspiration for many great artists (Eric Clapton admitted the riff for “Layla” was a direct lift from one of Albert King’s songs).

Moreover, Albert King shared the stage with some of the most important musicians in history, such as Jimi Hendrix and John Mayall. In 1969, Albert became the first Blues performer to perform with a symphony orchestra and later on, he released a tribute album to Elvis Presley. On December 19, 1992 Albert King played his final concert in Los Angeles. Two days later, he died from a sudden heart attack when he was at home in Memphis.

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