Gary Clark Jr.'s Favorite Tracks by B.B., Albert and Freddie King

Guitarist breaks down 10 songs by three kings of the blues

Gary Clark Jr., RS Issue 1209
Illustration by Jody Hewgill with Balvis Rubess
Gary Clark Jr.
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The three kings of the blues all helped shape the Texas guitar ace. "B.B. King plays like a beast, Albert King is just killer, and Freddie King was a big influence, too," Clark says. "My favorites from these guys change all the time, but I'll give this list a try."

Gary Clark Jr.: The Chosen One

1. "Chains and Things" (B.B. King, 1970)
It's this big, heavy groove, and he's just testifying. I remember hearing that in my headphones when I was younger, thinking, "That is the heaviest shit I've ever heard in my life."

2. "Overall Junction" (Albert King, 1967)
Some of the most badass playing of all time. I got hip to Albert King after people told me that Stevie Ray Vaughan was influenced by him. The instrumental is funky – not your typical 1-4-5 blues arrangement. There's a real Memphis feel to it.

3. "Have You Ever Loved a Woman?" (Freddie King, 1961)
You can tell he's not bullshitting in this song. He's talking about loving his best friend's woman, and not being able to touch her, and you can feel it when he sings – like, "Damn, bro, that sucks!"

4. "Woke Up This Morning" (B.B. King, 1958)
I love early B.B. He's playing a hollow-body electric, really clean. He plays some really cool jazz runs – just letting whatever he was feeling come out.

5. "The Very Thought of You" (Albert King, 1967)
Albert King is obviously a terrific guitar player, but you get to hear his sensitive side here. You put that on for a woman, you're pretty much good to go. I know that from experience.

6. "San-Ho-Zay" (Freddie King, 1961)
I first heard this song being played at a club on Sixth Street in Austin. Hearing a guy from Texas ripping it up like that, I felt connected.

7. "Night Life" (B.B. King, 1966)
I could relate to this song when I was young. I was going to school, and then balancing that with nightlife – clubs, music, booze, whatever else. Even now, anytime anybody ever questions me, "Why are you staying out until four in the morning?" I just want to play them this record.

8. "Blues Power" (Albert King, 1968)
The tone on this is just deadly. He talks about what the blues is – "I ain't seen my woman in 99 and a half days today" – and talks about this young girl who wants to meet up. And at the turnaround, he just lays into it on the guitar.

9. "Goin' Down" (Freddie King, 1971)
This one is a hard groove to play. I actually played it with the Rolling Stones in New Jersey. Mick asked me, "You know the song?" I was like, "Yeah! But I don't know the words." And he just kind of leans over and goes, "It's all right. If you don't know the words, just make it up. I do it all the time. It's blues!"

10. "Three O'Clock Blues" (B.B. King, 1956)
I recorded this to cassette when I was younger. I'd reference it when I was learning to play. It's a story of "I'm up late. Where's my woman?" A classic.

From The Archives Issue 1209: May 22, 2014
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