It’s an opinion few argued with at the time, and fewer still would take umbrage with today.
Raitt and King performed together on a number of occasions, one of which was the 2004 International Achievement Summit, which featured an evening concert at Chicago’s House of Blues headlined – in celebration of his induction into the Academy of Achievement (opens in new tab) – by King.
Raitt performed first on her own, before teaming up with King for a spirited rendition of When Love Comes to Town, a song U2 recorded with King for their 1988 album, Rattle and Hum.
Prior to starting the song, Raitt hits King – much to his delight – with some absolutely searing unaccompanied slide licks. “She loves to mistreat me like that,” King jokes with the crowd in response. “She knows I’m crazy about it!”
You can see the video of the performance – which begins with Raitt performing her song, Love Sneakin’ Up on You on her own – below.
Armed with one of her signature Stratocasters, Raitt doesn’t stop with just the unaccompanied intro. Indeed, King – playing “Lucille,” his legendary Gibson ES-355 with no f-holes – seems more interested in listening to Raitt slide around the fretboard than in playing himself.
Though the cameras never get up close with Raitt, you can still get a great sense of her slide technique and how she – by wearing the guitar slide on her middle finger – switches seamlessly between rhythm and slide playing.
At various points, Raitt’s slide work causes King to egg the crowd into cheering her on mid-solo, and even – at one amusing point – get up out of his chair and dance.
“I taught myself to play, so my hand positions aren’t 100 percent correct – and I put the bottleneck on the wrong finger,” Raitt told Guitar World of her unique slide technique in a 2022 interview.
“You can play more if you have it on your ring finger. Fred McDowell used his little finger, but by then I was already down the road with it on my middle finger. I heard Robert Johnson and just tried to make myself sound exactly like whatever he was doing.”
King wasn’t the only electric guitar hero to be left slack-jawed by Raitt’s slide work. In a 2022 interview, Raitt revealed that none other than Prince asked her to teach him her technique.
Joe Bonamassa has also sung Raitt’s praises, naming her lead break on Thing Called Love (from Raitt’s 1989 album, Nick of Time) as one of the 10 greatest blues-rock guitar solos of all time.
“It’s because she just has a way of phrasing and it’s in the DNA and it’s intrinsic.”
“You hear what she does with this song, a John Hiatt song, and you go, ‘Wow, it’s just super-original.’ It’s very restrained, but super-effective.
“Then you put that voice on top of it and it’s just like, ‘Yes! That’s it!’ To me, Bonnie Raitt is one of the most underrated guitar players of all time.”