Wednesday, April 11, 2012

If my last name was King, maybe I could play this damn guitar

Albert King in Boston at Nightstage in November 1986

It is a strange coincidence that three of the best blues guitarists of all time share the same last name. B.B., Freddie and Albert King have recorded albums that are the gold standard for modern blues guitar. If you are not a big fan of the blues, you may be a little confused about who is who between the three. Let me see if I can help in a short post.

B.B. King is probably the most well known of the trio. Born Riley B. King in 1925 on a cotton plantation in Berclair, Mississippi, King began recording in 1949 and is still active today. His break out moment came when he opened for the Rolling Stones on their 1969 tour. After that exposure to a younger audience, he began to get the recognition he deserved.

 His best known songs include The Thrill is Gone, which won a Grammy in 1970, Every Day I Have the Blues, and Sweet Little Angel. One essential  B.B. King album is Live at the Regal.

Albert King was born Albert Nelson on a cotton plantation in Indianola, Mississippi in 1923. Standing at least 6'4" and weighing 250 pounds, he was a imposing figure, particularly with his trademark Flying V guitar.  After some early records, his breakout album was recorded in Memphis on the Stax label in 1967.

Backed by Booker T and the MGs, Albert's Born Under a Bad Sign is one of the best blues albums ever recorded. Containing the title song as well as Crosscut Saw, Oh, Pretty Woman, and Personal Manager, the record is one of my favorites. Albert played many of these songs for the rest of his career. I was lucky to see Albert in 1986 at a club in Boston. He died of a heart attack in 1992.

The third member of the King trio is Freddie, who is the lesser known of the bunch. Born in 1934 in Gilmer, Texas, Freddie was the youngest of the three and the first to die when he passed away at age 42 in 1976. Although born in Texas, Freddy's family moved to Chicago in 1949. At an early age he was exposed to the music of Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson and Howlin' Wolf who were all playing on Chicago's South Side at the time.

King's instrumental Hide Away reached #5 on the R&B charts and #29 on the pop charts in 1961, which was quite a feat for a blues instrumental. It is very recognizable to all blues fans and was even covered by John Mayall and the Blues Breakers on the "Beano album" in 1966. Freddy's other big hits were Have You Ever Loved a Woman, You've Got To Love Her with a Feeling and Country Boy. All of these songs came be found on Hide Away: The Best of Freddy King. It is one of my favorite blues albums.

That's it in a nutshell. You now have three albums to download:
1. B.B. King Live at the Regal
2. Born Under a Bad Sign
3. Hide Away: The Best of Freddy King


  1. My first intro to the blues was around 1983 when I saw BB, Albert and Robert Cray at Sunrise Music Theater and I was hooked. It was the only time seeing Albert but have seen BB a few more times. Robert Cray stole the show that night and have seen him many times since and a fan of the blues ever since that night.

  2. I am blessed to have seen all 3 Kings of the Blues.
    I like the Albert King video. He plays well even with a finger splint!