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Author Topic: Albert King Sessions?  (Read 3474 times)

claudemorrow

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Albert King Sessions?
« on: February 21, 2005, 01:19:25 pm »

Hello Terry! How are you? Just curious if you recall any Albert King Sessions.  I toured with Albert (as rhythmn & backup lead guitarist) from about 1979 to 1981 and it was quite an experience. I never did any studio sessions with him, just road gigs.
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compasspnt

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Re: Albert King Sessions?
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2005, 06:34:27 pm »

claudemorrow wrote on Mon, 21 February 2005 13:19

Hello Terry! How are you? Just curious if you recall any Albert King Sessions.



A)  Fine, thanks.

B)

Albert King was very special to me.  I first worked with him when I was VERY young, and just getting started at Stax.  Albert came in to that first session, and was not pleased to find such a "young punk" engineering his work.  I must say that he was already well known for his gruffness, and his dissatisfaction at whatever was going on.

But I was very excited, and determined to make it work.  I was a big blues fan, and to me, Albert King was a god!  The very first thing we were to do was to overdub a vocal on a track previously recorded by the Stax rhythm section.  This was for an album of Elvis songs, all done by Albert (perhaps not the greatest of his work, but anything by him was worth working on!)

I had set up a U87 and headphones; Albert was not really used to working with cans, though, and he grumbled about it.  Of course, I didn't have a proper level on the vocal as yet, but I had made the normal attempt to get in the "neighbourhood" of the right settings.  I announced over the talkback that I would run down a bit of the track to get levels, and cranked it in motion.  When Albert sang the first few lines, everything was in the red; the levels were way too hot, and the compressor (UA 176 again) was smashing the left end.  As the first verse was finishing, I pretty much had everything under control technically; Albert seemed into it, and I was afraid that if I stopped the tape to begin again, he, not being very used to overdubbing, might get out of the flow of the song.  So I just let it go, and figured I'd come back and get that first, distorted, verse again.  When the song finished, Albert threw down the headphones, and came stomping into the control room, grumbling about something, as always.  "You got that one, then?" he said.  I answered that, yes, I got everything just fine, except for the very first verse, because I had to set the proper volumes and compressor settings first, as I had told him.  He was furious.  "I sang the song, and that's it!  You didn't get it, that's your problem!"  He stomped out.  This was my introduction to the enigmatic man that was Albert King.  By the way, I just had to mix the vocal the way it was, one take, distorted first verse...

But over the years, Albert and I grew somewhat close, at least partially as close as was possible with him.  He was really a good man.  He loved music, but he loved farming even more.  He had his own farm north of Memphis, which he would plow himself, sometimes even with mules!  He also sometimes drove his own bus on the road.  And all of his griping was actually endearing, in a strange manner; it was just his way.

I mixed several of his albums, including the Live Wire/Blues Power, which was recorded by our great Stax engineer, Ron Capone.
And I recorded him and his guitar many times in the studio.

A great side story concerning Albert's early Stax years concerns his awesome recording of "Cold feet."  During this song, Albert is heard not singing, but only talking, grumbling about various things.  Most people think it was a very cool, planned thing, but in actuality, he didn't know the vocal mic was live, and thought he was playing a blues instrumental...the grumbling and griping were for real!

Somewhere in the mid 80's, I was visiting a vintage guitar shop in Memphis, which was owned by a good friend of mine.  My friend wasn't there at the time, but his guitar technician was watching the store.  I saw a beaten up, tattered old Gibson Flying V case in the corner..."What's that?" I asked.  I was informed that it was Albert King's guitar case...his U-Haul type trailer, in which he carried his gear, had been in a flood, and all of the equipment had gotten wet; he had brought his guitar in to have it checked, dried out, and repaired, if necessary.  The guitar needed a bit of work, but the case was not in good condition at all.  So they gave him a new Flying V case, and he just left the old one he had used for so many years lying there.  I jumped on this, and offered to buy it; the technician didn't really know what to charge, so I offered $50, and he took it (my friend the shop owner was peeved later that it was sold at all!)  I have kept this case, which has the imprint of Albert's guitar, an old photograph, and an envelope from "The Watchtower" inside it, always in my main control room, as an inspiration.  Many guitarists have "worshipped" at this shrine.  I once removed it when a Jimmy Buffett session was coming in, because it looks so beaten up...but nothing in the control room worked right.  Suddenly I  flashed on the case...the "mojo"  was gone.  So I  announced what the problem was, and the solution.  I returned the case to it's proper position, and everything worked fine from then on!  Sometimes you just have to get your priorities straight!

A few years after getting this case, I had it in my own studio building's control room, and I was working on another blues artist, Otis Clay.  Albert decided to come by to check everything out.  He came in, hung around a bit, and then I took the time to show him the old case.  "This is your original guitar case, Mr. King, and I always keep it close.  It's become an inspiration to me, and to many of the guitarists with whom I work.  We see it as an icon, if you will, providing good luck to many of our recordings...it is a real tribute to you!"  Albert, in his inimitable fashion, didn't really grasp the sincerity..."Um, uh, hey, a little glue here and there, and this case might be good to go on the road again!" he said....oh well!

One night shortly thereafter, I was working in my control room with a friend, who was also an acquaintance of Albert's, when we heard a gigantic noise.  He thought it might have been a 747 flying very low overhead.  I thought it was perhaps an earthquake, or at least a huge thunderstorm.  But it was only Albert, banging on the back door, shaking the entire concrete building...he was there in his Suburban with the two enormous trombone-like horns on each front fender...a bluesman to the end!

Albert at that time wasn't feeling well, however, and we insisted that he go to the doctor.  My friend set up an appointment with a top level cardiologist, and Albert actually went to be checked out (after a couple of false starts).  He was told that he must have an angioplasty procedure (the balloon), as there were blockages; it wouldn't really hurt, and he would be back up in no time, ready to tour again.  But he was very afraid of this, and kept finding every excuse possible not to go.  We begged and pleaded, and I actually bothered him so much about it that he was angry (what else was new?)  I last saw him just before I left Memphis to come to Compass Point, in December 1992.  He was on Beale Street, in his Lincoln Towncar.  I took a photograph of him with my then-one-year-old son, Lucas, holding Lucas' hand (I like to think of it as "passing the torch.")

A week later, I was in Nassau, and one of the first communications I got from back in the US was the news that  Albert had died.  He never made it to the medical procedure which would have saved his life.  I was unable to go right back to the funeral, because our first clients were here, for our first session as the new Compass Point studios.  I've never gotten over that.  But I was mailed the funeral program, and I still have that, at least.

You mention that you played with him live...bless you.  That was never easy for anyone, but especially for the drummer...Albert started as a drummer, playing for none other than Jimmy Reed, so he always thought he knew drumming better than any drummer he could hire!  I've seen more than one fired right on stage, and the gig finished with no drums!

Well, I've written too much again!  Thanks for your question and your interest!

Terry
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neve1073

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Re: Albert King Sessions?
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2005, 09:17:23 pm »

Another great read!
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David Kulka

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Re: Albert King Sessions?
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2005, 09:25:45 pm »

Yes, another great read, and greatly appreciated.
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Lee Tyler

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Re: Albert King Sessions?
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2005, 10:16:31 pm »

Great stuff Terry, and most generous of you to take the time to offer us a glimpse into the depth of your professional experience. ---Lee
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Radd 47

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Re: Albert King Sessions?
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2005, 08:50:43 pm »

Another unreal story. Thanks for all this!!!

I saw Albert one time in a small club back in the eighties. He would just bend the be-jeezus out of those strings! Well, he poped the small E. I am expecting some roadie to hustle out and do a guitar swap. Instead, Albert just starts reaching into his suit pockets. (The man liked to dress up) OK, whats behind pocket number one, err , thats a G. OK, whats behing the top left pocket, thats a B. Gettin closer, finally he whips out the E string, still facing the crowd, and laces that thing up quicker than greased lightning. I was impressed, to say the least. It's not easy to deal with an E with big sweaty hands on stage.

I liked his lectures, like at the end of the show. "Now childrin, I want you do go home and be cool. Don't be drinkin too much tonight. Me? I'm gonna go have a nice big breakfast, and maybe a have a nice serving of good red wine and go to bed."

I heard he used to carry a machine gun with him on the bus. Every once in a while he would have the driver pull over so he could empty a few clips!

I really like (for a change) the re-done version of Blues Power in the two CD box set. The added some cool reverb that gave it more of the live sound, and it just did wonders for that track. At least, on my stereo.



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