Freddie was born in Gilmer Texas on September 3 1934 with the given name of Fred King to Ella Mae King and J.T. Christian. My father's mother told him that her grandfather ( who was a full-blooded Choctaw Indian) prophesied to her that she would have a child that will stir the souls of millions and inspire and influence generations. My grandmother and her brother Leon played the guitar. Freddie's mother recognized early her first born interest in music. She and her brother Leon began teaching him to play rural country blues at the age of six. His early music heroes were Sam Lightnin Hopkins (who he credits his proficiency of the down home thumb-finger picken style) and Louis Jordan (the jump blues saxophonist). He told me that he would play Jordan's record over and over again until he could match his horn, note for note. This discipline would have a major impact on his phrasing.
His first guitar was a silvertone acoustic. His most prized guitar at that time was his Roy Roger acoustic. In a interview years later he recalled going to the general store to order it. The store owner asked him if his mother knew he was trying to order a guitar on her store account. Freddie replied " no". The store owner told him to get permission. His mother said "no". She told him, "if you want a new guitar you will have to work for it." He stated that he picked cotton just long enough to earn the money to purchase a Roger's guitar.
By 1949 three of Freddie's uncles, Felix , Leonard and Willie King had already moved to Chicago. They were earning good money working in the steel mill. Ella now married to Ben Turner saw opportunity for her family in Chicago. Freddie's father J.T. didn't want Freddie to go to Chicago, He wanted Freddie to finish high school and go to college in Texas like some of his family. J.T.'s sister Melissa was a teacher at the local black school. Ella and J.T. agreed to let Freddie finish high school. The family left for Chicago in the fall of 1949.
Sweet Home Chicago
By 1952 Freddie had met and married a Texas girl, Jessie Burnett. She proved to be the foundation and maturity he needed. She also would be the inspiration and co-contributor to some of his compositions. He worked in the steel mill during the day and worked gigs at night. He would ocassionally work as a sideman in recording sessions. He and his running buddies Jimmy Rogers and Eddie Taylor were young, fresh and eager to venture out in search of something new, something different. The southside of Chicago served up its blues with the big blues band sound that included a rhythm section, horns, a piano,and sometimes a harp. The westside of Chicago with its small taverns, eagerly embraced these young blues maverick and their blues sound that consisted of a electrifying lead guitarist who usually doubled as the lead vocalist. a bassman, and drummer. Freddie jumped at the chance that the westside travens offered. So he along with two other young guys, guitarist Jimmy Lee Robinson and drummer Sonny Scott formed his first band,"The Every Hour Blues Boys".
In 1953 Freddie cut several sides for the Parrot Label. He continued to do session recordings whenever possible.
It was not until 1956 that Freddie recorded a 45 with a local label El-Bee. Side A was a duet with Margaret Whitfield "Country Boy" and side B was a fast tempo blues, " Thats What You Think". His friend Robert Lockwood Jr. added guitar licks. Chess Records was one of the biggest blues labels at that time. Their home office and recording studio was located in Chicago. Many big name Chicago blues artists were signed, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf and Little Walter, just to name a few. My father auditioned several times with no success. They stated that he sounded vocally like B.B. King. He would later say that Chess rejection was a blessing in disguise, because it forced him to develope his own vocal style.
It is now 1957 and Freddie is performing with bluesmen like blues pianist Memphis Slim ( who left the Chicago scene to find success in France.) and blues guitarist Magic Sam Maghett( a good friend and neighbor). As a favor Freddie did some uncredited session work for Magic Sam who at the time was signed to the Cobra Label. 1958 Uncle Sam came calling on the blues community. My father was not drafted because he had no arch support (flat feet). Magic Sam was not so lucky he was drafted.
Federal/King Records Years
1959 Freddie is rejected once more by Chess Records, but he meets Sonny Thompson a pianist who happens to be a contract artist and front man for King/Federal label. Sonny recognized something unique about Freddie's blues style.
In 1960 Freddie signed with Syd Nathan's King /Federal Label. Syd Nathan was a total control freak, a smart hard nose businessman who at times could be fairer than most record label owners of this period. His contract artists range from the
sensational James Brown, Blues, Freddie King ,Albert King,Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Memphis Slim, John Lee Hooker and others, Country & Western, Ferlin Huskey, The Stanley Brothers, Hank Penny, Grandpa Jones and others, R&B, Hank Ballad, Bill Doggett, Little Willie John, Little Esther Phillips,Rock and Roll, The Platters, The Ink Spots, Chantals, Royals,and others, Jazz, Nina Simone, Carmen McRae, Errol Garner, Bobby Scott, Bobby Troup and others, Gospel artists and International artists.
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. Yes Syd Nathan was a control freak. Freddie's time with King label was bitter sweet. He was happy to be under contract, but he did not like being control and manipulated artistically. Nathan would suggest ideas for songs that Freddie disagreed with. Nathan wanted Freddie to cover some of his country and western artist tunes. Freddie had always been a fan of C&W but Nathan and Freddie could never agree on which tune to record. Then one day Nathan over heard a studio jam session that consisted of some country and western musicians and Freddie doing a blues swing version of" Remmington Ride". Nathan quickly had Freddie nail that tune to vinyl. The collaboration of Freddie King and Sonny Thompson on instrumentals such as "The Stumble," "Low Tide," "Wash Out," "Sidetracked," "HeadsUp," "Onion Rings," "The Sad Nite Owl," and "Hide Away", contains some of the most brilliant and most awsome guitar licks in guitar blues history.
Many of Freddie's songwriting credits under the King label contract were shared with Sonny Thompson. They would have marathon sessions of 16 hrs and more. The first 45 release: side A " Have You Ever Loved A Woman", side B "Hide Away". Both sides were big hits on the R&B charts. The surprise was the Hide Away release. It became a crossover hit on the Pop chart reaching # 29. This was a first, a blues artist registering a hit on the Pop chart. No other blues artist had accomplished this before. Young whites were digging Freddie's blues style. Nathan quickly capitalized on it. He insisting that Freddie and Sonny concentrate on instrumentals. Freddie sold more albums during this period (1961-63) than any other blues artist including B.B. King.
"His biggest year was 1961, when he placed six singles on Billboard’s R&B chart, including four that entered the Top 10. His run of hits in that year began with “Hide Away” (Number Five), which was followed by “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)."
"His instrumentals tended to be rollicking and uptempo, while his vocal numbers, such as “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” and “Love Her With a Feeling,” were often soulfully sung slow blues. He recorded more than 30 instrumentals for King Records, many of them issued on the albums Let’s Hide Away and Dance Away with Freddy King (1961) and Freddy King Gives You a Bonanza of Instrumentals (1965). Also released on King were the albums Freddie King Sings (1961), Bossa Nova and Blues (1962) and Freddy King Goes Surfin’ (1963)." Copyright 2015. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. All Rights Reserved. - See more at:
King would soon wake up the young British music community to the Freddie King groove
"King had numerous disciples in the rock world, including British guitarists Eric Clapton, Peter Green (cofounder of Fleetwood Mac and an alumni of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers), Mick Taylor (another Mayall alumni and member of the Rolling Stones), and Stan Webb (leader the blues-rock band Chicken Shack). In 1966, Eric Clapton covered “Hide Away” on Blues Breakers, his lone album with John Mayall."
Copyright 2015. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. All Rights Reserved. - See more at:
Eric Clapton has stated many times in interviews that Freddie King was his early inspiration,his guitar hero, the reason he purchased a Les paul guitar. The 45 release: side A " Have You Ever Loved A Woman", side B "Hide Away"converted him.
Bluesman Add Some Soul To It
King was unhappy with Federal and Syd Nathan so when his contract expired 1966. he went looking for a new label. and his first overseas tour followed in 1967.
King spirits was soon lifted with the success of his first overseas tour . He was originally booked for a month and it was extended to three. He was amazed by his popularity in England, a new generation of young white musicians like Eric Clapton,MickTaylor, John Mayhall and others were trying to emulate Freddie King sound.
King's availability was noticed by producer and saxophonist King Curtis, who had recorded a cover of "Hide Away," with Cornell Dupree on guitar in 1962. Curtis signed King to Atlantic in 1968, which resulted in two LPs, Freddie King Is a Blues Master (1969) and My Feeling for the Blues (1970), produced by Curtis for the Atlantic subsidiary Cotillion Records.
Both releases were soulful and funky and showcased his singing talents,both albums had moderate success.Freddie was disappointed in the lack of success in the two releases.
In 1969 Freddie hires a new manager Jack Calmes. Jack is young, white busnesss man who is part of the "counter culture" that has discovered the blues. Jack helped orchestrate Freddie's career into high gear with the 1969 Texas Pop Festival,there he shared billing with Led Zeppelin, Sly and the family stone,Ten years After, B.B. King, among others, " Led Zeppelin's guys were standing there watching him perform with their mouth open" Jack said. Calmes secured a contract deal for Freddie with Leon Russell's new label Shelter Records . Leon had been a fan of Freddie's sizzling guitar style for years. Leon was now creating the Oklahoma blues culture with the start up of his own label. Leon Russell record label included Joe Cocker, JJ Cale 'The Nitty Gitty Dirt Band and others. Leon spared no expense the sessions were top shelf he flew the studio crew to Chicago and recorded the first album Getting Ready" at the old Chess Records studio. Freddie now had the freedom to showcase and record what he wanted, Leon wanted the listening audience to experience the brilliance and raw essences of Freddie King. Shelter was the perfect springbroad for Freddie's style of blues, hard driving and in your face. This collaboration put Freddie into the mainstream of the white blues /rock explosion. The release of "Getting Ready" produced Freddie's signature blues/rock hit "Going Down".
Getting Ready 1971 SW8905
The Texas Cannonball 1972 SW8913
Woman Across The River 1973 SW8921
It's now he 70's Freddie is in hot demand on the road 300 days for a few years touring Internationally, the Filmore circuit, Blues festivals touring with Led Zeppelin,Grand Funk Railroad ( who referenced to playing poker with Freddie King all night long in their hit song " We are an American band" and Creedence Clearwater Revival and others. His touring with Eric Clapton formed a great Friendship between the two. Eric was living out a life long dream to perform side by side with one of his blues heroes. Freddie soon sign with Clapton's label RSO. Three albums were released:
Burglar 1974 SO4803
Freddie King Larger Than Life 1975 SO4811
Freddie King 1934-1976 Polydor/Polygram Records 831817-2
"He taught me just about everything I needed to know....when and when not to make a stand...when and when not to show your hand ... and most important of all... how to make love to your guitar."
Eric Clapton 1977
Texas Is Home
It is now 1962 and Freddie was still riding the crest of success from his King recordings. Freddie King was hotter than molten steel. But with success comes the down side. Freddie Loved the Chicago night life. Gambling til dawn in the backroom of Mike's cleaners and getting into mischief with his cronies.My mother was now a housewife with six children. She didn't like what the Chicago nightlife was doing to her husband, it provided to many distractions. The fall of 1962 she left her husband and she and her six children moved to Dallas Texas. After she arrived in Dallas she called Syd Nathan demanding that he send her royalties that she knew her husband was entitled to. She stated that she needed it for her children and herself to start a new life. Nathan proved to be a few notches above the other record company owners of this period. He sent my mother two thousand dollars. My mother place a down payment on a house. It did not take my father long to realize that his family was not returning to Chicago. Freddie left his beloved Chicago and joined his wife and children in Dallas in the spring of 1963. Freddie's move to Texas proved to be a blessing in disguise. Freddie began fine tuning his vocals he evolved from a B.B. king singing style to his own more soulful sound. Music was changing and so was he. He was experimenting with and incorporating different types of music. Freddie's contract with King ended in 1966. Gone were the big name revues and national tour packages, but Freddie continued to draw pack houses where ever he performed black and white clubs. He got an opportunity in 1966 to do a series of appearances on a R&B program called "The!!!Beat". The Beat had this 60's "Mod"look that featured a house band lead by Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, artists like Otis Redding, Etta James, Little Milton, Carla Thomas, and Louis Jordan. to name a few appeared weekly.
These appearance caught the attention of Atlantic Records front man King Curtis.
In 1968 Freddie signed a contract with Cotillion Records a subsidiary of Atlantic Records. Two albums were released:
It's Called Rock Blues
Freddie King was like a man on a mission. He burned the candle at both ends. He soon developed an ulcer. He continued to work a heavy tour schedule. His health continued to deteriate and on December 26 1976 he was admitted to the hospital suffering from complications of an acute ulcer and pancreatitis and on December 28 1976 he succumb to an heart attack.