Albert King has a String Thing

Posted by: Daniel R. Lehrman Posted in: Danny's Favs

Albert King 6'4" tall 240 pounds

Albert King was more than one of the fathers of electric guitar blues. Albert King was quite a unique character and guitar player. He was born Albert Nelson on a cotton plantation in Indianola, Mississippi.

King was a left-handed “upside-down/backwards” guitarist. Albert was lefty guitarist, but usually played right-handed guitars flipped over upside-down so the low E string was on the bottom. He also used very unorthodox tunings (i.e., 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 emotive “bending” of notes, a mandatory technique characteristic of blues guitarists.

The other day, one of my Stumble friends shared a video of Albert King with me. The video must have jarred my brain a little bit. I wrote an article Is There An Ambidextrous Guitar Player Out There? on July 9th, 2008, discussing the finer points of playing Albert King style. That article came from an article about Jimi Hendrix Chords and how to use them. Reading these two articles and comments may give you some interesting background on why I wrote both articles.

Before you watch this video of Albert King, which shows in clear detail him playing the guitar in his unorthodox manner, I wanted to fill you in on some Albert King vibe. He was just one of the big three “Kings” that helped make electric blues what they are today. Albert King, B.B. King and Freddie King. B.B. perhaps being the best known, and still alive and performing today at 83 years old.

All three Kings had an un-measureable influence on the blues. To be more specific, I would recommend watching and listening to this video, and listening to some of his classic songs, any song you choose is a classic as far as I’m concerned, al-though you can’t go wrong with the album “Born Under a Bad Sign” I’m a blues man and guitarist first and only. The two greatest blues players (of my era), and ever, were Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. RIP

The thing is that Albert King had his influences too, and then developed his own style which influenced other great guitar players. The most dramatic example of Albert Kings influence can be heard by one of my favorite players and someone I try to emulate, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Listening to Stevie Ray will allow you to hear how much Albert King’s style influenced him, particularly the 2 note bends. Every time I listen to Ray I am amazed at the power of Albert’s beautiful influence on him. Of course Stevie Ray had many other influences, on top of totally creating his own style of hi-energy string bending blues, which, as I said has a very heavy influence on me. Evolution of music is what it is called.

It is not an easy vibe to master. Since Albert played his guitar upside down and not restrung, he would pull the hi E down to do a bend. The way most of us play a guitar, with the hi E on the bottom, requires that we bend the string up. Believe me, it is easier to pull it down. Try it Stevie Ray style with 13 gauge strings. Then you will understand why super glue can be your best friend.

Enjoy the video. At Guitar Players Center, bringing unusual information about our influences and why they are is one way to spread the knowledge around, helping you find the right influence for you. You can help spread the word by commenting on your influences and, or Sharing this article with other folks that play the electric guitar.

8 Responses to Albert King has a String Thing

  1. Nice article, it is so much fun to hear Albert King play. I think about how devoted SRV was to Albert King, that when ever Albert King came to his town SRV was there to be a good host. I can imagine what a heartbreak SRV’s early passing must have been to Albert King.

  2. He’s not my cup of tea, but you’ve got to admire great playing. It is interesting when you look around and see how music evolved and you still admire players of more than 30 years ago…

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