The world lost one of the all-time great bluesmen 18 years ago today on December 21, 1992. He was born on April 25, 1923, and yes…it was “Under a Bad Sign”!
Albert was a large man, 6′ 4″, 250 lbs, with incredibly large hands that were perfect for playing the guitar.
Like so many other blues guitar players, Albert began singing with a family gospel group at a church when he was just a young boy. He was influenced by blues musicians Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lonnie Johnson.
King was a left-handed “upside-down/backwards” guitarist meaning that while he was left-handed, he usually played right-handed guitars flipped over upside-down so the low E string was on the bottom. The electric guitar (specifically the Gibson Flying V, which he named “Lucy”) was his signature instrument.
In later years he played a custom-made Flying V that was basically left-handed, but had the strings reversed. He also used very unorthodox tunings, often tuning as low as C — to allow him to make massive string bends.
On December 6, 1983, Albert King joined Stevie Ray Vaughan on a Canadian sound stage for the live music television series In Session. What happened was total magic.
King and Vaughan would never share a stage together again. Vaughan, 31 years King’s junior, died in a helicopter crash on the way back from a concert in 1990. King outlived him by two years, dying of a heart attack in 1992. They didn’t meet often, and their careers took different paths. But we can all be grateful for that one long day in a television studio when sparks flew and this timeless performance was forever captured.