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Under The Influence: Huey Morgan

The Fun Lovin’ Criminal and BBC radio host on how Albert King blew his mind and taking the flame with some memorable advice from BB King

A friend of mine went to see Albert King play one time when he was very young. Afterwards this seven-year-old kid gets backstage, goes up to Albert King and says, “Mr King, what kind of tuning were you playing with?” He said: “Albert King tune, son.”

I was interested in blues guitar early on, but my idea of it as a 12-year-old was listening to mind-bending Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin and trying to figure out pentatonic scales. Then my friend played me a live recording of Albert King at the Fillmore East on New Year’s Eve 1969, when he opened for Hendrix. I was blown away. The emotion was so undiluted, it was right there. You hear King after the first song, bewildered, saying thank you as all these white kids go crackers. He was playing left-handed like Jimi did but he had it strung for a rightie, so he’s bending down all his high notes. That guy solidified my love for the blues and it just expanded.

In the 1970s and 80s, growing up in New York City, I was spoilt for choice. BB King, God rest his soul, had his club on West 42nd Street; you name it they played there. I also saw James Brown and Son House at the Lone Star Cafe. It was great to see those guys coming full circle, from having nothing to influencing everything.

Later on I remember Keith Richards telling me that, if you look at the blues on sheet music, it doesn’t look much cos it’s all improv, it’s all feeling. The blues is a good person feeling bad.

When you meet a guitar player from a generation before you, they want someone to take the flame and move it on to the next generation. They know they’re not gonna live forever, they’ve been through the mill and back and seen every bad side of the music business there is. When they see someone who really is a student of the blues and wants to learn it, they’re really encouraging.

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