|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (November 2011)|
Life and career
Saunders Samuel King was born in Staple, Louisiana, United States. He was the son of a preacher, and sang in his father's church while growing up in Oakland, California. As a youngster he learned to play piano, banjo and ukelele, but did not pick up guitar until 1938. At the end of the 1930s he sang with the Southern Harmony Four on NBC radio, and decided to begin playing blues music; he released the tune "S.K. Blues" in 1942, which became a major nationwide hit. The tune featured electric blues guitar, one of the earliest recordings to do so.
The lyrics tell of the singer's dissatisfaction with his bald-headed girlfriend:
- "I did more for my baby than the good lord ever done (2X)"
- "I went downtown and bought her some hair and the good lord never gave her none"
This verse proved particularly popular and has come to be considered a traditional blues lyric.
The song concludes on a theme of violence toward women:
- "Give me back that wig I bought you, and let your head go bald (2X)"
- "you keep on mistreatin' me baby, you won't have no hair, no head at all"
King had a series of setbacks in the 1940s which hurt his career; his wife committed suicide in 1942, his landlord shot him with a .45-caliber pistol in 1946, and he was jailed for heroin possession shortly after. He recorded for Aladdin Records, Modern Records, and Rhythm Records, and retired from active performance in 1961, devoting himself to work in the church. Sometime thereafter, his daughter Deborah King was wed, and, in 1979, he played with Carlos Santana, his son-in-law, on the album Oneness.