zzxg | Iconic guitars: the Kings (2)


#2 Iconic guitars: the Kings

In this column: lucille, lucy, gibson es-345

The Beale Street Blues Boy King (Riley Ben King) at WDIA studio in 1946


In 1949, BB King was playing a dance hall in Twist, Arkansas. The hall was being heated by barrels which were half full of kerosene. A fight broke out, knocking over one of the barrels and setting the building ablaze. King realized he had left his beloved Gibson L-30 guitar inside and ran back in to save the instrument. The cause of the fire was a fight between two men over Lucille, a woman who worked at the club. That particular guitar, and every subsequent guitar that King ever owned, was named, “Lucille.” King said it reminded him never to risk his life that way again.
King played several Gibson models: the ES-5, ES-125, ES-175, ES-335, and, of course, the one that most fans associate with “The King of the Blues,” the ES-355.

The ES models have a hollow or semi-hollow body and feedback, a reason for King to put handkerchiefs in the f-holes. In 1980 Gibson launched the 355, which, at King's request, had no f-holes to avoid feedback.

Gibson L-30
The ES models have a hollow or semi-hollow body and feedback, a reason for King to put handkerchiefs in the f-holes. In 1980 Gibson launched the 355, which, at King's request, had no f-holes to avoid feedback.
"I'm 85 years old, and I'm still singin' the blues"

How blue can you get - B.B. King (recorded in 1973 at the prison outside New York City)

LUCY - Albert King

Albert King was a blues guitarist, who played guitar left-handed and upside-down, which allowed him to bend the strings a lot. This way of playing gave him his special tone with a lot of passion, which has also influenced others like Stevie Ray Vaughan. His guitar was the Gibson Flying V. He started with an original, 1958, Korina model, which he dubbed, “Lucy” after comedian Lucille Ball. This V-model was lost and it was by a 1966 model, which was a gift from Gibson. The 1966 model featured the historic recording of "Born under bad sign”. In 1972, luthier, Dan Erlewine, created a true, left-handed V out of a piece of 125-year-old black walnut. With King’s name inlaid in the fretboard, and “Lucy” on the headstock, this became King’s main instrument. A third “Lucy” was made in 1980 by Radley Prokopow, and King played these two, custom built VS until his death in 1992.

The ’59 Gibson Flying V made famous by Albert King (left), along with the “Lucy” guitar built by Dan Erlewine in the early 1970s, and the mid-’60s Flying V King played extensively after his ’59 V was lost. Photos by Rick Gould.

Blues power - Albert King (playing his 1966 V-model)

1960 ES-345 CHERRY RED - Freddie "Texas Cannonball" King

Freddie King is considered one of the "Three Kings of the Blues Guitar" (along with Albert King and B.B. King. Mostly known for his soulful and powerful voice and distinctive guitar playing, King had a major influence on electric blues music and on many later blues guitarists.
Freddie is best associated with the Gibson ES-345. He used a variety of different models of this throughout his career, but his main guitar was a cherry red, 1960 ES-345.

Freddie with a Gibson ES_345 stop tail

He used the open-string sound associated with Texas blues and the raw, screaming tones of West Side, Chicago blues. This combination gave his music a contemporary feel.
In his early career he played a solid-body gold-top Gibson Les Paul with P-90 pickups. He later played several slimline semi-hollow body Gibson electric guitars, including an ES-335, ES-345 and ES-355. He used a plastic thumb pick and a metal index-finger pick.

A Memphis 1964 345 with Maestro vibrato tailpiece
Freddie King 1960 ES-345 Sixties Cherry VOS
A faithful re-creation of the ES-345 used by Freddie in the mid-1960’s. Body and neck are maple, fingerboard is rosewood, the pick-ups are MHS humbuckers for true PAF tone.

Big legged woman - Freddie King (1973, Sweden)

Sources: Thomas Moon: The Verdict Of Big Joe Williams, weeniecampbell.com, BBC news, Talkin' to myself: Blues lyrics, Michael Taft, digitalcitizen.ca, federalcigarjugband.com, pancocojams.blogspot.nl, americanbluesscene.com, YouTube, Wikipedia, Hudson Motors Compagny, Archive Minneapolis, The Cruel Plains, M.H.Price a.o., truewestmagazine.com, The Austin Chronicle, Cambridge Free English Dictionary, Oxford Dictionary, TheSaurus.com, dragonjazz.com/grablue/blues_travel, Encyclopedia of African American Popular Culture, Blues by Paul Breman, Blues by David Harrison, Quora.com, urbandictionary.com, Blogs.loc.gov, The Ballad Hunter by Alan Lomax, Black Pearls: Blues Queens of the 1920th by Daphne Duval Harrison, jopiepopie.blogspot.nl, redhotjazz.com, The Blues Lyrics Formula by Michael Taft, American Ballads and Folk Songs by Alan Lomax and John Avery Lomax, The Past Is Not Dead: Essays from the  Southern Quarterly by Douglas B. Chambers, EarlyBlues.com, railroad-line.com,  Jason Lee Davis' RailFan Pages , centertruthjustice.org