Blues is a music genre created by African–American in the early 20th century, that developed in the rural southern US. Our hero, Freddie King dedicated his life’s passion for this music, and we can easily say that he was born with the blues, lived for the blues, and die with the blues. His two major blues styles were Texas and Chicago blues, and we will share a few words and try to explain the characteristics of each. Before all, we need to put a few words about the blues and how it was created.
The first appearance of the blues is often dated to after the ending of slavery. It is characterized by its lyrics, bass lines, and instrumentals; blues singers are expressing feelings, sadness or melancholy, often due to problems in love, and it’s typically in a twelve-bar sequence. To express that, blues performers use vocal techniques such as melisma, rhythmic techniques such as syncopation, and instrumental techniques such as ending guitar strings on the neck. It can be categorized into a number of genres, such as Country blues, Texas blues, Chicago blues, African blues, British blues, Gospel blues, Electric blues, and Delta blues. Some of the most popular blues performers are Muddy Waters, B. B. King, T-Bone Walker, Freddie King, Albert King, Ray Charles, W.C. Handy and many others.
STORY OF FREDDIE KING
Freddie King ( September 3, 1934 – December 28, 1976 ) was born as Frederick Christian and nicknamed as The Texas Cannonball, was an American blues singer and guitarist, remembered as one of the three kings of electric blues – guitar, together with B. B. King and Albert King. He was born in Gilmer, Texas, where his mother Ela May King and uncle taught him to play the guitar when he was just six years old. Yes, he learned to play the guitar at the age of six. Back in those days, kids didn’t have gadgets and toys like mobile phones, computers, foldable drones or whatever. They were lucky if they had any time and any mean for an amusement. Freddie was lucky to have an uncle with a guitar and blues was happy that had young curious Freddie. He was a fan of saxophonist Louis Jordan and liked the music of Lightnin’ Sam Hopkins.
He moved with his family from Texas to the south-side of Chicago in 1949 where he would sneak into South Side nightclubs and listen to some blues performed by T-Bone Walker, Elmore James, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf.
The beginning and ‘The Every Hour Blues Boys’
In 1952 he started working in a steel mill and gigged at night, and by then he had married Jessie Burnett, a Texas girl who he had seven children with. He formed his first band, The Every Hour Blues Boys, with the guitarist Jimmie Lee Robinson and the drummer Sonny Scott. He occasionally worked as a sideman with bands like Little Sonny Cooper Band and Earl Payton’s Blues Cats.
In 1953 he recorded for Parrot Records which were never released, and in 1956 he recorded “Country Boy” for El-Bee Records, a duet with Margaret Whitfield, and “That’s What You Think”. The tracks featured the guitar of Robert Lockwood Jr. who was also adding rhythm backing and fill to Little Walter’s records. In 1959 he met Sonny Thomson, a pianist, and producer who worked for the King/Federal label, and in 1960 he signed with that same label.
Creation of hit songs
He recorded two of his most popular songs, “Have you ever loved a woman” and “Hide Away” (instrumental – guitar with a rhythm section that delighted everyone and was covered by Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Canadian guitarist Jeff Healy) for which he got to number five on the R&B chart and number 29 on the Pop Chart. His second release was “I Love The Women”.
After the success of “Hide Away”, which became a blues standard, Freddie and Sonny Thompson continued on making more instrumentals such as like The Stumble,” “Low Tide,” “Wash Out,” “Sidetracked”, “San-Ho-Zay,” “Heads Up,” “Onion Rings,” and “The Sad Nite Owl”. During that period, Freddie toured with many R&B artists such as Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, and James Brown. His band included his brother Benny Turner on bass and Tyrone Davis. In 1966 his contract with Federal expired, but he made a couple of appearances on an R&B program called “The!!! Beat” and was noticed by Atlantic Records frontman, King Curtis.
Switching labels and partnership with Jack Calmes
In 1968 he signed with the Atlantic subsidiary, Cotillion Records and released two records for them: ‘Freddie King Is a Blues Master’ in 1969, and My Feeling for the Blues in 1970.
Freddie hired Jack Calmes to be his manager in 1969, and Jack secured him an appearance at the 1969 Texas Pop Festival alongside Led Zeppelin and others, which led with signing a contract with Shelter Records, based in Oklahoma, and established by pianist Leon Russell and the record producer Denny Cordell. It featured blues and rock performers such as Linda Ronstadt and Joe Cocker. He went to Chicago to the Chess Studios where he recorded his album “Getting Ready”. During this period, three albums were released; including some blues classics and some new songs like “Going Down”, written by Don Nix.
He performed with Eric Clapton, who he made a good friendship, so Freddie signed with the label Clapton was recording for, RSO. His first album “Burglar”, was produced and played by Clapton, and was released in 1974. In 1975, he released his second album, “Larger Than Life”.
The end that came to soon
He died in 1976 in Dallas, Texas from a heart attack, and complications of this illness and acute pancreatitis, at the age of 42. His lifestyle was really fast and stressful; he was constantly touring, had a poor diet, and allegedly he was consuming a lot of Bloody Marys at that time. Although he died so young, he sure left a big trace in the blues scene, as September 3, 1993, was declared Freddie King Day. Modern days are lacking true musicians, and we can only regret for those days, the days when Freddie was rocking the scene. Nowadays we have all the technology to produce sounds and capture music performances but the quality is just not the same. Cameras are rolling, camera drones are flying and filming performances, but we miss Freddie and his kind, artists that are so passionate about the music in her purest form.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the legacy
He also was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and placed 15th in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. His style was unique, powerful and intuitive, and he achieved that by using the open-string sound which was a combination of the Texas and Chicago sounds. He played a Gibson Les Paul with P-90 pickups, and later played several Gibson electric guitars, including an ES-335, ES-345, and ES-355, using a plastic thumb pick and a metal index-finger pick. He had a big influence on the British blues scene, and he will surely remain as one of the biggest blues masters.