Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
One of the "Three Kings" of the Blues guitar (along with B.B. King and Freddie King), he stood 6 foot 4" weighed in at 260 pounds and was known as "The Velvet Bulldozer". He was born Albert Nelson into a humble family in Indianola, Mississippi, at a cotton plantation where he worked in his early days. One of his earlier influences in music was his own father, Will Nelson, who would often play the guitar. During his childhood he would also sing at a family gospel group at a church. He began his professional work as an artist with a group called In the Groove Boys, in Osceola, Arkansas.
His first hit was I'm a Lonely Man, released in 1959. However, it wasn't after his 1961 release Don't Throw Your Love on Me So Strong that he had a major hit, ranking 14th on the R&B charts. In 1966 he signed with the famous Stax record label and in 1967 released his legendary album "Born under a Bad Sign". On February 1st, 1968 he was hired by promoter Bill Graham to open the show at the Fillmore West for John Mayall and Jimi Hendrix. Most of the stoned-out hippie audience had no clue who Albert King was...but soon found out. He stole the show, and showed the whole world where Mayall and Hendrix got most of their blues chops!
Albert King was a left-handed "upsidedown/backwards" guitarist. That is to say, he was left-handed but played right-handed guitars (mostly Gibson "Flying V's") flipped over upside down so the big strings were on the bottom. He also used very unorthodox tunings IE; tuning as low as C to allow him to make sweeping string bends. A "less is more" type blues player he was known for his uncanny ability to "squeeze" notes and was said to be able to get more feeling from one note than most guitarist could get from 1000.
Albert King influenced thousands of blues guitarist including famous musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Eric Clapton's guitar solo on the 1968 Cream hit "Strange Brew" is a note-for-note cover of King's solo on his Stax Records hit "Pretty Woman." He had an additional hit in 1972 with his song "I'll Play the Blues for You."
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