Freddie King was born on this date in 1934. He was an African American Blues musician and singer.
From Gilmer, Texas, his birth name was Freddie Christian and though he was raised in Texas, he matured as a musician in Chicago. His guitar style combined country and urban influences. As a child, King grew up on the music of such legendary country blues guitarists as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup. After he and his family moved to Chicago in 1950, King began hanging out in clubs where the stinging, city-hot guitar work of such Mississippi Delta-rooted blues men as Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers, and Eddie Taylor filled the air.
King (no relation to any of the other blues guitarists named King) was one of the lynchpins of modern blues guitar. Along with Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, and Magic Sam, King spearheaded Chicago’s modern blues movement in the early ’60s and helped set the stage for the blues-rock boom of the late ’60s. His influence on such blues-rock titans as Eric Clapton helped preserve a legacy characterized by searing, aggressive guitar solos and the welding of blues and rock into one cohesive sound. Though he first recorded in the 1950s-cutting sides for the obscure El-Bee label and doing a few session dates for Chess, King didn’t begin to attract attention until after he signed with Federal Records in 1960. (Federal was a subsidiary of the Cincinnati-based King Record label.)
Under the guidance of pianist and King Records A&R man Sonny Thompson, King’s early-’60s sessions resulted in such stellar tunes as “Lonesome Whistle Blues” and “I’m Tore Down” (116 k, 10 sec.) as well as a potent rendition of the Bill Myles classic “Have You Ever Loved a Woman.” (Eric Clapton did a version of the song during his Derek and the Dominos days.) In 1994, Clapton cut his own version of “I’m Tore Down”(114 k, 10 sec.) with remarkable resemblance to Freddy’s original. King also recorded numerous instrumentals in the early ’60s. One song, “Hide Away,” reached number 29 on the Billboard pop charts in 1961 and ranks among the most popular blues instrumentals ever recorded. Named for Mel’s Hideaway Lounge, a noted Chicago blues club, the song showcased King’s guitar prowess and inventiveness in combining catchy themes drawn from blues, rock, and rhythm & blues. Thanks to the popularity of his guitar instrumentals in the early ’60s, King was able to move freely from blues to R&B to rock-flavored blues and novelty songs like “Bossa Nova Watusi Twist,” “Monkey Donkey,” and “Surf Monkey.” King’s relationship with Federal/King ended in 1968.
Although King’s most productive period was over, he enjoyed a renaissance of sorts in the late ’60s when English blues-rock guitarists such as Clapton, Mick Taylor, and Peter Green began covering King tunes and incorporating elements of his guitar style into their own. This brought King renewed recognition and a growing audience among blues-rock fans, plus new recording contract in 1968 with Cotillion, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records. Two years later King jumped to Shelter Records. His last recording contract was with RSO Records in 1974.
Though the bulk of his blues from this era leaned heavily toward funk and rock, his guitar work remained stylish and supple. King was only forty-two years old when he died on December 28, 1976 of bleeding ulcers and heart failure.