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Freddie King

Freddie King
Photo:Chuck Pulin/Star File
Background information
Birth name Frederick Christian King
Also known as Freddy King, The Texas Cannonball
Born September 3, 1934(1934-09-03)
Gilmer, Texas, United States
Died December 28, 1976 (aged 42)
Genres Blues-rock, funk
Occupations Musician
Instruments Guitar, Vocals
Years active 1950-1976
Labels El-bee, King, Federal, Atlantic,Shelter, RSO
Associated acts Bill Wills, Sonny Thompson, Leon Russell, Eric Clapton, Bobby Tench, PP Arnold, Jamie Oldaker, Carl Radle, Tom Dowd, Mike Vernon, King Curtis, Steve Ferrone, Jimmie Vaughan, Peter Green, Bill Freeman, Denny Campbell, Robert Lockwood Jr., Jamie Oldaker, Carl Radle
Website The official Freddie King site
Notable instruments
Gibson Les Paul guitar, Gibson ES-335 guitar

Frederick Christian King (September 3, 1934 - December 28, 1976) also known as Freddie King, "The Texas Cannonball" and Freddy King, was an influential Afro-American blues guitarist and singer. King's mother and uncle began teaching Freddie to play guitar at the age of six. He moved with his family from Texas to the South Side of Chicago in 1950. In 1952 he married Jessie Burnett.

He perfected his own guitar style based on Texas and Chicago influences and was one of the first bluesmen to have a multi-racial backing band on stage with him at live performances. He is best known for his recordings such as "Have You Ever Loved A Woman" (1960) and his Top 40 hit "Hide Away" (1961), which he first recorded with Will Aiken. He is also known for albums such as, Let's Hide Away and Dance Away with Freddy King (1961) and Burglar (1974).[1]

When aged sixteen he visited local clubs where he heard blues music, performed by Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, T-Bone Walker, Elmore James, and Sonny Boy Williamson. King played with Muddy Waters's sidemen who included, Eddie Taylor, Jimmy Rogers, Robert Lockwood, Jr. and Little Walter.

King had a twenty year recording career and became established as an influential guitarist. In his early years as a young musician, King played with Muddy Waters's sidemen who included, Eddie Taylor, Jimmy Rogers, Robert Lockwood, Jr. and Little Walter. He inspired American musicians including Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmie Vaughan,[2] Bill Freeman and Denny Campbell, and mid 1960s UK blues revivalists such as Eric Clapton,[3] Chicken Shack and Peter Green.[4] King died from heart failure on December 28, 1976, aged forty two.[5]

A testament to King's presence on the circuit of touring rock bands was Grand Funk Railroad's mention of King in their song "We're an American Band", written by Don Brewer and based on incidents which occurred whilst touring with King. [6]




In 1952 and aged eighteen King worked in a steel mill, occasionally working as a sideman on recording sessions. During this period he played with bands such as The Sonny Cooper Band and Early Payton's Blues Cats. He formed his first band Every Hour Blues Boys' with guitarist Jimmy Lee Robinson and drummer Sonny Scott. In 1953 he recorded for Parrot Records, but these recordings were not released. In 1956 he recorded a duet with Margaret Whitfield "Country Boy" for El-Bee records[7] which also featured guitarist Robert Lockwood Junior.[8]

Syd Nathan signed him to the King Records subsidiary label Federal, in 1960 and he recorded the single, "You've Got To Love Her with A Feeling", which became his debut release. "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" (1960) and "Hide Away" (1961) followed and found chart success the reaching #29 in the Pop Singles Charts and #5 on the R&B Charts. The previously released "I Love the Woman" and "Hide Away" were used as B-sides. "Hideaway" was an adaptation of a tune by Hound Dog Taylor and was named after a popular bar in Chicago[9] and gained popularity at this time.

After success with "Hide Away" [10] King and piano player Sonny Thompson record thirty instrumentals, including "The Stumble", "Just Pickin'", "Sen-Sa-Shun", "Side Tracked", "San-Ho-Zay", "High Rise", "I'm torn down" and "The Sad Nite Owl".[11] King's band included his brother Benny Turner on bass and Lonnie Mack played rhythm and second guitar on a number his recordings from this period. During this period he toured with the big R&B acts of the day such as Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and James Brown.

King's contract with Federal expired in 1966 and his first overseas tour followed in 1967. He was noticed by King Curtis and was subsequently signed to Atlantic during 1968.[12] In 1969 he hired Jack Calmes, to be his manager who secured him an appearance at the 1969 Texas Pop Festival, alongside Led Zeppelin and others[13] and this led to King being signed to Leon Russell's label Shelter Records. The company treated Freddie as an important artist, flying him to Chicago to the former Chess studios for the recording of Getting Ready and gave him a supporting cast of top-calibre session musicians, including rock pianist Leon Russell.[14] Three albums were made during the this period, including blues classics and new songs written by Russell and Don Nix.[15]

King performed alongside the big rock acts of the day, such as Eric Clapton[16] and for a young mainly white audience, before signing to RSO. In 1974 he recorded Burglar, on which Tom Dowd produced the track, "Sugar Sweet", at Criteria Studios in Miami with guitarists Clapton and George Terry, drummer Jamie Oldaker and bassist Carl Radle. Mike Vernon produced all other tracks,[17] and P. P. Arnold sang vocals.[18] Vernon also produced a second album Larger than Life[19] with King, for the same label and brought in other notable musicians to compliment King[20]

Playing style and technique

King had an intuitive style, often creating guitar parts with vocal nuances.[21] He achieved this by using the open string sound associated with Texas blues and the raw, screaming tones of West Side Chicago blues. He usually played Gibson ES-335 guitars[22] with a plastic thumb pick and a metal index-finger pick to achieve an aggressive finger attack, a style he learned from Jimmy Rogers. He had a relatively more aggressive and creative style of improvisation than others such as, B.B King and Albert King, considered by many to be a more exploratory and less traditional approach.



  • "Country Boy"/"That's What You Think" El-bee Records(1956)
  • "Have You Ever Loved A Woman"/"You've Got To Love Her With A Feeling" Federal 12384 (1960)
  • "Hide Away"/"I Love The Woman" Federal (1961)
  • "Christmas Tears"/"I Hear Jingle Bells" Federal (1965)


  • Freddy King Sings Federal 762 (1961)
  • Let's Hide Away and Dance Away with Freddy King Federal 773 (1961)
  • Two Boys And A Girl Freddy King, Lulu Reed & Sonny Thompson. Federal 777 (1962)
  • Bossa Nova And The Blues Federal 821 (1963)
  • Freddy King Goes Surfin Federal 856(1963)
  • Bonanza Of Instrumentals Federal 928 (1965)
  • Freddie King Sings Again Federal 931(1965)
  • Freddie King Is A Blues Master Cotillion SD 9004 (1969)
  • My Feeling For The Blues Cotillion SD 9016 (1970)
  • Getting Ready Shelter SW8905 (1971)
  • The Texas Cannonball Shelter SW8913 (1972)
  • Woman Across The River Shelter SW8921 (1973)
  • Burglar RSO SO4803 (1974)
  • Freddie King Larger Than Life RSO SO4811 (1975)

Compilation albums

  • All His Hits King 5012 (1965)
  • Freddie King 1934-1976 Polydor 831817-2 (1976)
  • Just Pickin' Modern Blues (1989)
  • Hide Away The Best Of Freddie King Rhino (1993)
  • King Of The Blues EMI/Shelter (1995)
  • Staying Home With The Blues Universal/Spectrum (1997)
  • The Best Of Freddie King MCA (2008)
  • Taking Care of Business Bear Family Records (2009)

Awards and recognition

In 1993 by proclamation from the Texas Governor Ann Richards September 3, 1993, was declared Freddie King Day. This was an honour previously only reserved for Lone Star legends such as Bob Wills and Buddy Holly.[23]

In 2003 Freddie King was placed 25th in Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.[24]


  1. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine & Cub Koda. "Freddie King". Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  2. ^ Busby, Mark. The South West. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 323. 
  3. ^ Clapton, Eric. Clapton: the autobiography. Broadway. p. 41. 
  4. ^ Santelli, Robert. The big book of blues: a biographical encyclopedia. Penguin. p. 239. 
  5. ^ Corcoran, Joseph, Michael. All over the map. True heroes of Texas music. University of Texas Press. pp. 51–54. 
  6. ^ Book: James, Billy. Song: Brewer, Don. Book: An American Band (SAF Publishing). Song: "We're an American Band" (1973. Brew Music Company/BMI). p. 90. 
  7. ^ O'Neal, Jim and Van Singel, Amy. The voice of the blues: classic interviews from Living blues magazine. Routledge. p. 359. 
  8. ^ The Freddie King Estate. "Sweet Home Chicago". Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  9. ^ Dahl, Bill. "Hideaway". allmusic. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  10. ^ Pruter, Robert. Chicago Soul. University of Illinois Press. p. 236. 
  11. ^ "Freddie King song credits". allmusic. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  12. ^ Hardy, Laing, Barnard and Perretta. texas Music. Schirmer Books. p. 251. 
  13. ^ Hayner, Richard.C. "The Texas Pop Festival". Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  14. ^ "Getting Ready credits". Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  15. ^ Kosta, Rick. Texas Music. St. Martin's Press. p. 187. 
  16. ^ Tony Stewart, NME. "Crystal Palace Bowl Concert". Retrieved 2010-23-01. 
  17. ^ Viglione, Joe. "Burglar". Retrieved 2009-05-08. 
  18. ^ "PP AArnold credits". Retrieved 2009-05-08. 
  19. ^ "Larger than life". Retrieved 2009-05-08. 
  20. ^ "Bobby Tench". Retrieved 2009-05-08. 
  21. ^ Corcoran, Joseph, Michael. All over the map. True heroes of Texas music. University of Texas Press. p. 54. 
  22. ^ Lawrence,Robb. The Early Years of the Les Paul Legacy 1915-1963. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 247. 
  23. ^ Van Beveren,Amy. "Freddie King". 
  24. ^ "100 Greatest guitarists. No: 25 Freddie King". 


  • Busby, Mark. The Southwest. Greenwood Publishing Group (2004). ISBN 9780313328053
  • Clapton, Eric. Clapton: The Autobiography. Broadway Books (2007). Digitized 4 Sep 2008.ISBN 9780385518512
  • Corcoran, Michael, Joseph, All Over the Map: True Heroes of Texas Music. University of Texas Press (2005). ISBN 9780292709768
  • Koster, Rick. Texas Music. St. Martin's Press (2000). ISBN 9780312254254
  • Hardy, Phil. Laing, Dave. Stephen, Barnard. Perretta, Don. Encyclopedia of Rock. Edition 2 (revised). Schirmer Books (1988). Digitized 21 Dec 2006. ISBN 9780029195628
  • O'Neal, Jim and Van Singel, Amy . The Voice of the Blues: Classic Interviews from Living Blues Magazine. Edition 10. Routledge (2002). ISBN 9780415936538
  • Lawrence, Robb . The Early Years of the Les Paul Legacy 1915-1963. Hal Leonard Corporation (2008). ISBN 9780634048616
  • Pruter, Robert. Chicago Soul. Edition 5 (reprint). University of Illinois Press (1992). ISBN 9780252062599

External links


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