Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Freddie King, Blues Master, Part II

"Freddie King was one of the kingpins 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 helped preserve a legacy characterized by searing, aggressive guitar solos and the welding of blues and rock into one cohesive sound. "
--All About Jazz
“The lord sure enough put you here to play the blues.”

--Howlin Wolf to Freddie King

As mentioned in the biography, Freddie King was born in Gilmer, Texas, on September 3, 1934. Although he learned quite a bit from his mother and others who played guitar in the area like fellow Texan Lighning Hopkins, he matured as a guitarist in Chicago. In 1949, he moved to Chicago. At the age of 16, he began sneaking into clubs and hanging out with musicians. Soon, he was hanging out and jamming with the likes of Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Elmore James and others.

Howlin Wolf took him under his wings and taught him how to survive on the streets of Chicago. Between Howlin Wolf and Muddy Waters and his sidemen (Eddie Taylor, Little Walter, Robert Lockwood Jr.) King found a protective inner circle. This inner circle helped him to mature not only as a musician but to make the transition from the rural South to a Northern metropolis.

Not long after that, he was working as a sidemen for different groups that recorded at Chess Records under the direction of Willie Dixon. He recorded a few songs for Parrot and then moved on to Federal, Cotillion, Shelter and other labels.

King’s approach

Unlike B.B. King’s single note playing with a flat pick, King employed a more “down home” approach, using his thumb and fingers. According to Freddie King's official website, it was Eddie Taylor who taught Freddie King how to play using a metal index finger pick and a plastic thumb pick, as opposed to a regular flat pick. It was a Texas style of playing that would influence players across the Ocean like Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck.

Lightning Red, another Texan and guitarist, further explained King’s guitar approach:

"If you listen to just about any contemporary blues guitarist (including myself), you'll hear a lot of Freddie King. Listen to Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Pride And Joy" when it first goes to the fifth chord turnaround. That descending G-E-D-B-A-G-E, etc. run is classic Freddie King. As well as are countless vibrato moves throughout his music. Eric Clapton cites Freddie King as a primary influence. This Texas legend is probably responsible for Mr. Clapton's perfection of the slowhand technique in which the vibrato sound is accomplished by moving the string across the fret board in an easy flow.

In my opinion, Freddie was one of the first blues players to really feel the funk, to put a lot of syncopation into his artistry. He was a major influence on just about every second generation blues guitarist, and I highly recommend you sit down with a complete collection of his music and go to work. Because his 335 did not have a stop-tailpiece as did B.B.'s, Freddie used longer and/or a fairly heavy gauge of strings which contributed to his slowhand vibrato technique."

Changing music

King seemed to always be popular on the chitlin circuit (black community), but some say labels went to ridiculous levels to market him to whites. One label had him doing a surfing album. Some critics say labels went too far in marketing King to young white audiences as well. Others say these more rock-tinged recordings with pianist Leon Russell and, later, Clapton on his RSO label was more or less a reflection of the music business at that time. They say blacks were turning away from blues and toward R&B. They say Freddie King knew what white listeners wanted and he turned up the volume on his amp and guitar to give it to them. Regardless, most agree that his recordings for the Cotillion label in 1968 ("My feeling for the blues" and "Freddie King is a blues master") were two of his best.

The blues master lives on

After more than 30 years, Freddie King is still remembered fondly. In 1993, Texas governor Anne Richards declared September 3 as Freddie King Day. A few of his best songs are viewed regularly on YouTube. And the Freddie King Blues Fest continues to be held every year in Dallas. Clearly, Texas still loves one of her favorite sons.


rainywalker said...

I'm learning alot of history here, I've missed. Excellent for the young people who read the blogs.

Anonymous said...

Just saw him on Youtube. Wish I could have seen him in person, before he died.

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

my great aunt played sax for bb king, evelyn "whip" Young

MacDaddy said...

rainywalker: To musicians and die-hard blues lovers, I'm not saying anything they don't know. But I hope some young people will get something from it. Actually, in my music appreciation class, in addition to classical, I learned about American music, including jazz, blues, gospel, and country & western music. But I hear the schools have gotten rid of music appreciation classes, except in some private schools.
torrance: Do you have any photos of your Aunt Evelyn playing with B.B.? That would really be great, something you could show to your kids.