Freddie King

Freddie King (September 3, 1934 – December 28, 1976) was an American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter. He is considered one of the “Three Kings of the Blues Guitar” (along with Albert King and B.B. King, none of whom were blood related). Mostly known for his soulful and powerful voice and distinctive guitar playing, King had a major influence on electric blues music and on many later blues guitarists.

King moved to Chicago when he was a teenager; there he formed his first band the Every Hour Blues Boys with guitarist Jimmie Lee Robinson and drummer Frank “Sonny” Scott. As he was repeatedly being rejected by Chess Records, he got signed to Federal Records, and got his break with single “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” and instrumental “Hide Away”, which reached number five on the Billboard magazine’s rhythm and blues chart in 1961. It later became a blues standard. King based his guitar style on Texas blues and Chicago blues influences. The album Freddy King Sings showcased his singing talents and included the record chart hits “You’ve Got to Love Her with a Feeling” and “I’m Tore Down”. He later became involved with producers who were more oriented to rhythm and blues and rock and was one of the first bluesmen to have a multiracial backing band at performances.

Nearly constant touring took its toll on King—he was on the road almost 300 days out of the year. In 1976 he began suffering from stomach ulcers. His health quickly deteriorated, and he died on December 28 of complications from this illness and acute pancreatitis, at the age of 42. According to those who knew him, King’s untimely death was due to stress, a legendary “hard-partying lifestyle”, and a poor diet of consuming Bloody Marys because as he told a journalist, “they’ve got food in them.”

King had an intuitive style, often creating guitar parts with vocal nuances. He achieved this by using the open-string sound associated with Texas blues and the raw, screaming tones of West Side, Chicago blues. King’s combination of the Texas and Chicago sounds gave his music a more contemporary feel than that of many Chicago bands who were still performing 1950s-style music, and he befriended the younger generation of blues musicians.

 

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