Freddie King was born in September 1934 and raised in Gilmer, Texas, where he was taught how to play the guitar as a 6-year-old by his mother and uncle. King played acoustic blues at first, much in the style of players like Lightin’ Hopkins, but by the time he was a teenager he had gravitated to the raw electric tones of the Chicago blues style.
At the age of 16, his family moved to Chicago, where he frequented local music clubs and listening to popular blues musicians such as Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers, Robert Jr. Lockwood, Little Walter, and Eddie Taylor. Inspired by these artists, King formed his own band, The Every Hour Blues Boys and began performing live.
By the mid-1950s, King was playing on records for Parrott and Chess Records, as well as performing with Earle Payton’s Blues Cats and the Little Sonny Cooper Band. King’s first solo recording was in 1957 when he recorded Country Boy for the small independent label El-Bee. The single however was not a commercial success and gained little public attention.
In 1960, King signed with Federal Records and recorded his first single for the label, You’ve Got to Love Her with a Feeling. The single appeared in September of 1960 and became a minor hit in early 1961. This was followed by the instrumental Hide Away, the composition that would become his most influential recording. It was adapted by King and Magic Sam from an original Hound Dog Taylor instrumental and named after one of the most popular bars in Chicago. It single was released as the B-side of I Love the Woman in the fall of 1961 and became a major hit, reaching number five on the R&B charts. Hide Away was later covered by Eric Clapton (with John Mayall), and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
King’s first full-length solo album, Freddy King Sings, was released in 1961, and followed later that year by Let’s Hide Away and Dance Away with Freddy King: Strictly Instrumental. In 1961, he recorded anotherseries of blues instrumentals, including San-Ho-Zay, The Stumble, and I’m Tore Down, which are blues classics and have been covered by artists such as Magic Sam, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Dave Edmunds and Peter Green.
King’s influence was heard throughout the blues and rock boom of the mid-late 1960s, most notably when Eric Clapton made King’s Hide Away his showcase instrumental with John Mayall in 1965.
King signed with the Atlantic/Cotillion label in 1968, releasing Freddie King is a Blues Master the following year, and My Feeling for the Blues in 1970.
In 1974, he signed a contract with the Robert Stigwood Organisation (RSO) Records(Eric Clapton’s record label at the time) and released Burglar, which was produced and recorded with Clapton. King toured America, Europe, and Australia and released his second RSO album, Larger Than Life in 1975.
Despite poor health due to diet and a non-stop, 300-dates-a-year schedule, Freddie King toured America in 1976 but sadly died on December 29, 1976 of pancreatitis at the age of 42.
Known as one of the “Three ‘Kings” of the blues, alongside B.B.King and Albert King, Freddie was considered one of the most influential guitar players of his generation. “The Texas Cannonball” was not only known for his guitar playing, but also for his powerful voice and compositional talent. King was also one of the first blues performers to employ a multi-racial band.
King’s guitar style was an amalgam of Texas-influenced open string blues patterns and Chicago-style Pentatonic runs and string bends. He played both with a pick and with his fingers and often used the latter to vary the dynamics of his playing. He also used finger and thumb picks to achieve a more aggressive attack on the instrument.
King’s playing influenced a great many rock and blues players during the 1960s and 1970s including artists such as Eric Clapton and Peter Green and his compositions are still played by contemporary blues musicians such as Joe Bonamassa and Walter Trout.
King’s favoured instrument early in his career was a Gibson Les Paul Gold Top guitar with P-90 single-coil pickups, although he switched later to a Gibson ES-335 fitted with humbuckers. He used Gibson amplifiers such as the GA-40 and later Fender tube combos such as the Quad Reverb and Dual Showman with the volume and treble settings turned up full.
Freddie King – Burglar
Freddie King – Let’s Hide Away and Dance Away with Freddie King
Freddie King – Gives You a Bonanza of Instrumentals
Freddie King – Just Pickin’
Freddie King Licks
These licks are written in the key of C.
With your tone just starting to break up, pick hard throughout these Freddie King licks to drive your amp into overdrive.
The first line is aggressive and Minor Pentatonic all the way. The main feature is the double-stop hammer-on in bar one which you should play with your first, then third finger barring both notes. In bar two, feel free to give the double-stop a curl with your first finger.
Freddie King Example 6a:
The placement of the bends is the interesting feature in what would otherwise be a straightforward descending Minor Pentatonic phrase. Each bend is played on an off-beat so be careful with your phrasing.
Freddie King Example 6b:
Example 6c is fairly busy and the 1/8th notes plough forward through the phrase with considerable momentum.
Again, this line starts on an off-beat and begins with a minor-to-major 3rd bend that you should be familiar with by now. The bend on 10 is from the 2nd to the 3rd of the scale which you first saw in example 2d and is followed by a descending idea that moves into Minor Pentatonic territory. Don’t be afraid to add a slight curl (tiny bend) to the final note in bar three to push it slightly back towards major territory.
Freddie King Example 6c:
For 100 Authentic “In the Style of” Licks, check out my new book: