Freddie "The Texas Cannonball" King (September 3 1934 – December 28 1976) was an influential American blues guitarist and singer best known for his recordings "Hide Away," "Have You Ever Loved A Woman," and "The Stumble."
King was born Frederick Christian
in Gilmer, Texas
on September 3, 1934. His mother was Ella May King, his father J.T. Christian. His mother and uncle, who both played the guitar, began teaching Freddie to play at the age of six.
He moved with his family from Texas to the South Side of Chicago in 1950. There, at age 16 he used to sneak in to local clubs, where he heard blues music performed by the likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, T-Bone Walker, Elmore James, and Sonny Boy Williamson. Howlin' Wolf took him under his wing, and Freddie also began jamming with Muddy Waters' sidemen, who included Eddie Taylor, Jimmy Rogers, Robert Lockwood, Jr. and Little Walter.
By 1952 he had married a Texas girl, Jessie Burnett. He gigged at night and worked days in a steel mill. He got occasional work as a sideman on recording sessions. Two bands that he played with during this period were the Sonny Cooper Band, and Early Payton's Blues Cats. He formed the first band of his own, the Every Hour Blues Boys, with guitarist Jimmy Lee Robinson and drummer Sonny Scott.
In 1953 he made some recordings for Parrot. In 1956 he recorded "Country Boy", a duet with, Margaret Whitfield, and "That's What You Think", an uptempo shuffle. This was for a local label, El-Bee. Robert Lockwood, Jr. appeared as a sideman on guitar.
On Federal Label
In 1959 he met Sonny Thompson
, a pianist who worked for the King/Federal label
. In 1960, King signed with Federal, and while there he often shared songwriting credits, and participated in marathon recording sessions with Thompson. On August 26, 1960, he recorded "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" and "Hide Away", which were to become two of his most popular tunes. His debut release for the label was "You've Got To Love Her with Feeling". His second release on King/Federal was "I Love the Woman". "Hide Away" was used as the B-side for this disk; that tune, a 12-bar mid-tempo shuffle in E with an infectious theme in the head section, and a memorable stop-time break that featured some robust-sounding work on the bass strings, was destined to become one of his signature numbers. It was an adaptation of a tune by Hound Dog Taylor
. It was named "Hide Away" after a popular bar in Chicago. Strictly an instrumental -- guitar with rhythm section -- it delighted everyone by crossing over and reaching #29 on the US pop chart. It was later covered
by Eric Clapton
, Stevie Ray Vaughan
, the Canadian guitarist Jeff Healey
, among others.
After the success of "Hide Away", the label, which was presided over by Syd Nathan, got Freddie and Sonny Thompson to work on making more instrumentals. This they did, producing over 30 of them during the next five years. These would include "The Stumble", "Low Tide," "Wash Out," "Sidetracked", "San-Ho-Zay," "Heads Up," "Onion Rings," and "The Sad Nite Owl". During this period he was touring frequently along with the big R&B acts of the day such as Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and James Brown. His band included his brother Benny Turner on bass.
On the personal side, Freddie was fond, perhaps overly fond, of the Chicago night life. His official website refers to him "Gambling til dawn in the backroom of Mike's cleaners." His wife, now with ten children, decided to move back to Texas. Once there, she called Syd Nathan and demanded that he send her some of the royalty money due to her husband. To his credit, he sent her 2000 dollars, with which she made the down payment on a house. Realizing that the family was definitely not coming back to Chicago, Freddie, in the spring of 1963, moved back to Texas to rejoin them.
King's contract with King/Federal expired in 1966. His first overseas tour in 1967 was a resounding triumph, being extended from one month to three. He was "amazed by his popularity in England."1
While making a series of appearances on an R&B program called "The!!!Beat", he was noticed by Atlantic Records
star King Curtis
, and in 1968 he signed with the Atlantic subsidiary, Cotillion Records
. He released two records for them (see Recordings
), both of which showcased his vocal talents. They were not overwhelming commercial successes, however.
On Shelter Records
In 1969 he hired a young member of the "counter culture" Jack Calmes, to be his manager. Calmes got him booked at the 1969 Texas Pop Festival
, alongside Led Zeppelin
and others, and got him signed to Leon Russell
's new label, Shelter Records
. Shelter records was based in Oklahoma, and featured blues/rock performers such as J. J. Cale
and Tom Petty
. The company treated Freddie as an important artist, flying him to Chicago to the former Chess studios
for the recording of his first album, and giving him a supporting cast of top-calibre session musicians -- including Russell, a rock pianist. Three albums made during Shelter period were well-received. They include many covers of blues classics but also some new songs, including "Big Legged Woman" and Don Nix
's "Goin' Down". Most of the new material was written by Russell.
As were many of the top bluesmen of his generation, he was now playing what he affectionately called the "Fillmore circuit", performing alongside the big rock acts of the day for a young, mainly white, audience. As a result of touring with Eric Clapton, the two became good friends. Clapton held King in very high esteem and following his term at Shelter Records, King signed with the label Clapton was recording for, RSO
. His first album there, Burglar
featured Clapton and his band on several tracks. A testament to his presence on the circuit of touring rock bands was the name-checking of him in Grand Funk Railroad
's We're an American Band
King played with a plastic thumb pick and a metal index-finger pick. . His instrumental
", recorded in 1961, was later covered by John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers
featuring Eric Clapton
. It was also covered by Stevie Ray Vaughan
. King had a strong influence on blues-rock
musicians such as Stevie Ray Vaughan
, Ronnie Earl
, Peter Green
and Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Based on incidents while touring, the song "We're an American band" by Grand Funk Railroad, includes the line: "Up all night with Freddie King, got to tell you poker's his thing."
He continued to tour heavily. He died in Dallas in 1976 from a heart attack and complications arising from bleeding ulcers and pancreatitis. He was 42 years old.
In 2003 Freddie King was placed 25th in Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.
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.
- 1953. Several sides for the Parrot label.
- 1956. 45 r.p.m. record for El-Bee. Side A: "Country Boy", side B: "That's What You Think".
- 762- Freddy King Sings (1961)
- 773- Lets Hide Away and Dance Away with Freddy King (1961)
- 777- Freddy King, Lulu Reed & Sonny Thompson, Two Boys and a Girl (1962)
- 821- Bossa Nova and the Blues (1963)
- 856- Freddy King goes Surfin' (overdubbed crowd noise, reissue of LP 773) (1963)
- 928- Bonanza of Instrumentals (1965)
- 931- Freddie King Sings Again (1965)
- 45 rpm. – "Christmas Tears"/"I Hear Jingle Bells"
- Freddie king is a Blues master (1969) SD 9004
- My Feeling for the Blues (1970) SD 9016
- Getting Ready (1971) SW8905
- The Texas Cannonball (1972) SW8913
- Woman Across The River (1973) SW8921
- Burglar (1974) SO4803
- Freddie King Larger Than Life (1975) SO4811
- Freddie King 1934-1976 831817-2
There are many
reissues of Freddie King's work. This site
has a discography, with pictures of the covers, and track lists for some of the albums, but most of them are for his posthumous compilation releases and not for his original albums. Below we list a small sampling of the reissues:
- 721. Just Pickin'. This is a reissue of the two all-instrumental King/Federal LPs Let's Hide Away and Dance Away, and Freddy King Gives You A Bonanza of Instrumentals. It is highly recommended by reviewer Johnny Harper of the "there" website.
- 722. Freddy King Sings (CD). Reissue of Freddy's first King/Federal album. "Twelve fine tunes including the catchy, hard-groovin', and much-covered 'I'm Tore Down,' and numerous slow blues numbers including 'Have You Ever Loved A Woman'."2
- All His Hits (King CD 5012 includes "Christmas Tears" and "(What'cha gonna do when) The Welfare Turns Its Back On You".
- Hide Away: the Best of Freddy King (Rhino R2 71510) includes the instrumentals "Remington Ride" and "The Stumble".
1. The quote is from Freddie King the Texas Cannonball.
2. Quoted from the Johnny Harper article.