King’s interaction with American guitarists like Robert Cray and Stevie Ray Vaughan has been noted elsewhere in this feature – but it was in Britain that he would make an indelible mark before even setting foot on UK soil.
Eric Clapton, in particular, was such a devotee that he wanted to record a version of the blues standard Lawdy Mama in King’s style for Cream’s second album, 1967’s Disraeli Gears. In the event, producer Felix Pappalardi rewrote the melody and lyrics with his wife Gail Collins, the result being Strange Brew (the track, especially Clapton’s solo, still bore King’s stamp, though). Cream then covered Born Under A Bad Sign on the half live/ half studio Wheels Of Fire double album, released in summer 1968. Although offered there as a track on the studio disc, it was such an integral part of their live set that they played it on their 2005 reunion dates.
Clapton then moved on to Derek and the Dominos, where his guitar partner Duane Allman lifted the riff for Layla from Albert King – but not from one of his guitar lines, but rather a vocal line from the song As The Years Go Passing By. Listen and you’ll hear that Duane sped up the seven-note melody from the line ‘There is nothing I can do’. Eric also covered Crosscut Saw, the Delta blues attributed to Tommy McClennan that Albert popularised in 1966, on 1983’s Money And Cigarettes album.
Gary Moore, who unashamedly took his cues from Clapton, shared a stage with Albert King, among other blues legends, in his Still Got The Blues period: a 1990 performance of Oh Pretty Woman at the Hammersmith Odeon has notched up over 363,000 views on YouTube, and shows off the Erlewine-made ‘Lucy’ guitar to perfection.