MEMPHIS, Tenn.– Blues guitarist Albert King, 69, died Dec. 21 after a heart attack.
King influenced Eric Clapton and other rock greats and saw his own career revive as they popularized the blues.
The Indianola, Miss., native made his first recordings–“Bad Luck Blues” and “Be on Your Merry Way”–in the early 1950s. During the ’50s and ’60s, he hit the blues charts with songs such as “Laundromat Blues” and “Don’t Throw Your Love on Me So Strong.”
Clapton copied King’s guitar solo from “Personal Manager” note for note in the song “Strange Brew” on his group Cream’s “Disraeli Gears” album. Guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn’s music also paid homage to King.
“Every time you hear a rock ‘n’ roll guitar player, he’s playing Albert King licks,” said Wayne Jackson, a member of the Memphis Horns, a band King played with.
King played his guitar left-handed but didn’t restring the instrument from the right-hand configuration. Part of his distinctive sound came because he pulled on the strings while other players pushed.
As young guitarists like Clapton popularized the blues in the 1960s, King began to get more lucrative bookings and his career flourished. His 1968 album “Live Wire-Blues Power” was recorded at Fillmore West in San Francisco, a major venue of the time.
King was planning to tour Europe in 1993 with fellow bluesmen B.B. King, whom Albert King said was a distant cousin, and Bobby “Blue” Bland.
“He was one of a kind,” Bland said. “There was never any type of jealousy when we three worked together on a package. One just pushed the others.”