Based in St. Louis, Missouri at the time, blues guitarist Albert King was a popular draw in the Midwest U.S. during the late 1950s and early '60s, but was fairly unknown elsewhere. Although he recorded sides for labels like King Records, Vee-Jay, Parrot Records, and Bobbin Records, and even released a full-length album, The Big Blues, in 1962, nothing King released caught on with the blues audience. King would only find fame after signing with the legendary Memphis-based soul label Stax Records, which released his 1967 label debut, Born Under A Bad Sign.
On April 2, 2013 Stax Records will reissue Born Under A Bad Sign on CD as part of its "Stax Remasters" series, the new deluxe edition including several bonus tracks and insightful liner notes courtesy of blues historian and music journalist Bill Dahl. Born Under A Bad Sign is widely regarded as one of King's career milestones, the guitarist backed in the studio by the Stax house band, i.e. Booker T & the MG's, including keyboardist Booker T. Jones, guitarist Steve Cropper, bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn, and drummer Al Jackson, Jr. The Memphis Horns (Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love) were also used on the record.
Born Under A Bad Sign features some of King's best-loved songs; aside from the signature title track, covered by Cream a year later on their Wheels of Fire album, you'll find the red-hot "Laundromat Blues," the Delta blues tune "Crosscut Saw" (recorded by Tommy McClennan in 1941), and "Oh, Pretty Woman," written by local WDIA-AM radio deejay A.C. Williams. King co-wrote "Personal Manager," the B-side of the title track single, with Isaac Hayes' songwriting partner, David Porter, and King and the band jam on the MG's tune "The Hunter," which would later be covered by Free, Koko Taylor, and Ike and Tina Turner, among many others.
The Stax Remasters reissue of Born Under A Bad Sign includes a bunch of previously-unreleased bonus tracks they dug out of the vaults - alternate takes of "Born Under A Bad Sign," "Crosscut Saw," "The Hunter," and "Personal Manager" - as well as an untitled instrumental track. As Bill Dahl writes in the album's liner notes, "thanks to Born Under A Bad Sign, Albert King became a full-fledged blues luminary, masterfully bridging the gap between the Chitlin' Circuit and the rock arena. He would make more great Stax albums, but he'd never top this one." The album earned the talented blues guitarist an audience among rock fans that propelled him to larger venues like the Fillmore Auditorium, King influencing a generation of blues and rock guitarists to follow, including Son Seals and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
King will receive a long-overdue posthumous induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on April 18, 2013.
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Photo courtesy Stax Records