Albert King ~ Inducted Into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame
I just watched the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony for 2013 . . . not at all interested in Rush or Public Enemy, a bit interested in Quincy Jones and Lou Adler, very happy to see Heart inducted - but I was watching for Albert King. For me, Albert King was/is giant . . . giant in my own musical education and development, and simply giant in the depth and urgency and beauty of his music.
I found the Blues in the British invasion sounds of Cream and Ten Years After and Savoy Brown, etc. I gradually came to recognize that my favorite cuts on LP after LP were always 'the slow ones', but I didn't know why. Then I gradually began to recognize the same names in parenthesis under those song titles . . . names like Willie Dixon and McKinley Morganfield (Muddy Waters), etc. Upon investing these guys, I came to discover that they were all old Black guys from a generation or two before me. Eric Clapton and Alvin Lee and Kim Simmonds, etc, had introduced me to Blues - but I didn't know it yet.
Pretty soon, in the midst of a guitar solo, I'd hear Alvin Lee say "ohh baby I'll play the Blues for you", and then Jim McCarty could be heard on the 1st Cactus LP, just before 'the slow song', telling the recording engineer "No, instead we'll do the Blues". Now that I had a name for this very specific sounding music, I went shopping . . . but, all I knew was 'Blues', nothing about who or what LPs I should be shopping for - just 'Blues'.
Fortunately for me, I came across what remains one of my very favorite LPs - Albert King's 'Albert King ~ King of the Blues Guitar' . . . 'Blues' & 'Blues Guitar', and a photo of a giant Black guy with his eyes closed as he was bending strings, that's just what I was searching for. With Booker T & Duck Dunn & Steve Cropper as his band, cut after cut set be on a life-long course of loving American Blues music. And, it was an education. It became clear that I was not the only young White kid who had discovered and fallen in love with the Blues - when I heard Albert King I thought 'Man, this guy sounds just like Clapton in 'Strange Brew' from Cream', of course, Albert King did not sound like Clapton, Clapton sounded like Albert King.
All those 1st generation British Rock guitarists learned from, and so, got their sound from, a great parade of Black American Blues players . . . from Muddy Waters to Elmore James, from Freddie King to Buddy Guy, etc, etc, etc, Page & Beck & Hendrix, all those guys stood in front of thundering drums and amplified basses, but they were all playing Blues like Robert Johnson & Big Bill Broonzy. But, I don't think you can hear anyone in the British invasion guitar players (who invented Rock & Metal, etc) as much as you can hear Albert King - his single string, note bending, Blues riffs are all over Rock guitarists, from the very beginning with Eric Clapton to the striking prowess of Stevie Ray Vaughan . . . the very first time I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan's playing (in a record shop before he broke big) I stopped, pointed to the speakers, and said out-loud 'Jimi Hendrix and Albert King had a baby, and it's this guy'.
As a player, you always know what Albert King is going to do next, and he does it in every solo he plays - and you can't wait for it. He always goes to the same place, because it's such a good place - it's the heart of what electric Blues guitar ought to sound like. Some old Blues players came from cotton fields, some from share cropping, etc - before his career in music, Albert King drove a bulldozer, and that's how he played . . . no fiddling around, no holding back. And, with no formal training, the left-handed King played a right-handed guitar upside-down and backwards.