Forgotten Guitar Legend Freddie King (1934 – 1976) Remembered

Written by Cameron K
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Fred King was born in Gilmer, Texas in 1934 to Ella Mae King and J. T. Christian. Influenced by his mother and uncle, both proficient guitar players, Fred learned to play rural country blues when he was six. His early influences were Sam Lightnin Hopkins and jump blues saxophonist, Louis Jordan.

In 1949, the family moved to South Side of Chicago and the young teenager loved to sneak into the South Side nightclubs. There he heard blues performed by Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, T-Bone Walker, Elmore James, and Sonny Boy Williamson. Fred formed his first band the Every Hour Blues Boys, with the guitarist Jimmie Lee Robinson and the drummer Frank "Sonny" Scott.

When he was 18, he started working in a steel mill and in the same year married Jessie Burnett. They had seven children together. Freddy worked in the steel mill during the day and sat in as a sideman in recording sessions. with local bands including the Little Sonny Cooper Band and Earl Payton's Blues Cats. Freddy King's first record was a duet with Margaret Whitfield and was entitled "Country Boy" (1956) on El-Bee Records. The A-side was a duet with Margaret Whitfield, "Country Boy". Robert Lockwood, Jr., played guitar licks on the backing tracks.

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He tried several times to audition for Chess Records but was rejected because he sounded too much like B.B. King. Freddy started to make his name in the clubs and played with Magic Sam. Freddy continued to gig with Memphis Slim and Magic Sam Maghett as well as sit in on some recordings which were mainly uncredited. In 1959, he auditioned several times for Chess Records but was rejected because he sounded too like BB King. Then in 1960, he was signed to Syd Nathan's King /Federal Records and recorded "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" backed with "You've Got to Love Her with a Feeling." But it would be the instrumental "Hide Away," the B-side of "I Love the Woman", his next single, which broke into the charts and become a blues standard.

Freddie's time with the King label was bittersweet. Syd Nathan was manipulative and Nathan and Freddie could never agree on which tune to record. All artists recorded at one location in Cincinnati Ohio, at the Brewster locations. Records were mastered, pressed, stored, and distributed from this location. The album covers were designed and printed from the same location. Many of Freddie's songwriting credits under the King label contract were shared with Sonny Thompson. After the success of “Hid Away,” Syd Nathan insisted Freddie and Sonny concentrate on instrumentals. In 1961 alone, they scored a run of hits with “Hide Away” (Number Five), “Lonesome Whistle Blues” (Number Eight), “San-Ho-Zay” (Number Four), “See See Baby” (Number 21), “I’m Tore Down” (Number Five) and the seasonal single “Christmas Tears” (Number 26)." Freddie recorded more than 30 instrumentals for King Records, many of them issued on a couple of albums. They also recorded vocal tracks throughout this period and toured with Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, and James Brown. In 1963, he left Chicago to re-join his wife and children in Dallas. She was keen to take Freddie away from his wayward ways in Chicago and his move back to Texas had the added advantage with a more contemporary soulful sound which widened his appeal. His contract with Federal expired in 1966.

In 1967. Freddy completed his first overseas tour. Already an icon with UK guitarists like Eric Clapton his performances were electric. The tour was originally booked for a month and it was extended to three. On return to the US, King Curtis signed the guitarist to Atlantic in 1968. There, he produced two albums, Freddie King Is a Blues Master (1969) and My Feeling for the Blues (1970), both were produced by Curtis for the Atlantic subsidiary Cotillion Records. In 1969, Freddy (the Texas Cannonball) King appeared at the Texas Pop Festival, alongside Led Zeppelin and others. He then signed with Leon Russell’s Shelter Records. He recorded Getting Ready at Chess studio in Chicago accompanied by top session musicians, including Russell. Two other albums followed.

By the mid-70s the Texas Cannonball was hot property and constantly touring the States and overseas. He signed with label RSO and recorded three albums. Freddy the life of a rocker and partied hard surviving on a poor diet the endless touring meant Freddy King’s health deteriorated. He developed a perforated ulcer and pancreatitis and was admitted to hospital where sadly he succumbed to a fatal heart attack in 1976, at the age of 42.

Freddy King was a major influence on and inspiration to many up and coming musicians, including Eric Clapton, Rory Gallagher, Peter Green, and Mick Taylor.

The article used by Kind Permission and with thanks from ZANI


Read 1087 times Last modified on Tuesday, 14 July 2020 18:30
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Cameron K

Cameron K

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