Albert King ‘On My Merry Way – Singles As & Bs: The Earliest Sessions of the Guitar 1954-1962’ (Jasmine) 4/5

Blues guitar legend Albert King was born in Indianola, Mississippi, back in 1923, but his earliest recordings date from 1953 in Chicago. In fact it was blues bassist Willie Dixon who encouraged King to audition for Parrot records, owned by Chicago DJ, Al Benson. The first 45 is included here, with, ‘Be on your merry way’, and ‘Bad luck blues’, a fine A/B side combination to commence what would turn out to be a glittering career. However, despite the presence of both Dixon and guitarist Elmore James, the 45 was not in fact an immediate success. This, even though Chess records would eventually buy the titles and release these and other songs on the album, ‘Door to door’, which shared six titles on one side with Otis Rush.

If the first single was a respectable seller, it did not earn King a follow-up session with Parrot records and, instead, Albert King moved on in 1956 to St. Louis where he began playing regular gigs on the local circuit and honed his guitar skills. Indeed it was during this period that King came across what would become his signature guitar, the Gibson Flying, that he would rename ‘Lucy’. King came back to the recording studio with a significantly enhanced personal sound on the guitar and the resulting early 1960s 45, ‘Don’t throw your love on me so strong’, became a minor R & B hit in 1961, and was released on King records that same year. Elsewhere, ten unissued tracks (five apiece from Parrot and Bobbin records) are the main source of interest for aficionados, and of note here is the Albert King reading of Tampa Red’s, ‘Little boy blue’. Three songs from the ‘Door to Door’ album are included and, aside from the compilation title track, they include, ‘Bad luck’ and ‘Murder’.

Albert King would later join Stax records where he would enjoy his greatest success with songs as immortal as, ‘Born under a bad sign’, and, ‘I’ll play the blues for you’. He died in 1992 following a major heart attack, but continued to be a seminal influences on blues guitarists old and new alike.

Tim Stenhouse