(September 3, 1934 – December 28, 1976) was an influential American
blues guitarist and singer. He is often mentioned as one of "the Three
Kings" of electric blues guitar along with Albert King and B.B. King.
Freddie King based his guitar style on Texas and Chicago influences and
was one of the first bluesmen to have a multi-racial backing band at
live performances. He is best known for singles such as "Have You Ever
Loved A Woman" (1960) and his Top 40 hit "Hide Away" (1961). He is also
known for albums such as the early, instrumental-packed Let's Hide Away
and Dance Away with Freddy King (1961) and the later album Burglar
(1974) which displayed King's mature versatility as both player and
singer in a range of blues and funk styles. King became an influential
guitarist with hits for Federal Records in the early 1960s. He inspired
musicians such as Jerry Garcia, Dickey Betts, Stevie Ray Vaughan and his
brother Jimmie Vaughan. His influence was also felt in Britain through
recordings by blues artists such as Eric Clapton, Peter Green and
Chicken Shack. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in
In 1959 King got to know Sonny Thompson, pianist, producer, and A&R
man for Cincinnati's King Records and King owner Syd Nathan signed King
to the subsidiary Federal label in 1960. King recorded his debut single
for the label on August 26, 1960: "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" backed
with "You've Got to Love Her with a Feeling" (again as "Freddy" King).
From the same recording session at the King Studios in Cincinnati, Ohio,
King cut the instrumental "Hide Away," which the next year reached #5
on the R&B Charts and #29 on the Pop Singles Charts, an
unprecedented accomplishment for a blues instrumental at a time when the
genre was still largely unknown to white audiences. "Hide Away" was
originally released as the B-side of "I Love the Woman". "Hide Away" was
King's conglomeration of a theme by Hound Dog Taylor and parts by
others, such as from "The Walk" by Jimmy McCracklin and "Peter Gunn", as
credited by King. The song's title comes from Mel's Hide Away Lounge, a
popular blues club on the West Side of Chicago. Willie Dixon later
claimed that he had recorded King doing "Hide Away" for Cobra Records in
the late 1950s, but such a version has never surfaced. "Hide Away" has
since become a blues standard.
After their success with "Hide Away," King and Sonny Thompson recorded
thirty instrumentals, including "The Stumble," "Just Pickin',"
"Sen-Sa-Shun," "Side Tracked," "San-Ho-Zay," "High Rise," and "The Sad
Nite Owl". Vocal tracks continued to be recorded throughout this period,
but often the instrumentals were marketed on their own merits as
albums. During the Federal period King toured with many of the R&B
acts of the day such as, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and James Brown, who
performed in the same concerts.
King's contract with Federal expired in 1966, and his first overseas
tour followed in 1967. King's availability was noticed by producer and
saxophonist King Curtis, who had recorded a cover of "Hide Away," with
Cornell Dupree on guitar in 1962. Curtis signed King to Atlantic in
1968, which resulted in two LPs, Freddie King Is a Blues Master (1969)
and My Feeling for the Blues (1970), produced by Curtis for the Atlantic
subsidiary Cotillion Records.
In 1969 King hired Jack Calmes as his manager, who secured him an
appearance at the 1969 Texas Pop Festival, alongside Led Zeppelin and
others, and this led to King's being signed to Leon Russell's new label,
Shelter Records. The company treated King as an important artist,
flying him to Chicago to the former Chess studios for the recording of
Getting Ready and gave him a backing line-up of top session musicians,
including rock pianist Leon Russell. Three albums were made during this
period, including blues classics and new songs like, "Goin' Down"
written by Russell and Don Nix.
King performed alongside the big rock acts of the day, such as Eric
Clapton and for a young, mainly white audience, along with white tour
drummer Gary Carnes for three years, before signing to RSO. In 1974 he
recorded Burglar, for 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
the other tracks. Vernon also produced a second album Larger than Life
with King, for the same label. Vernon brought in other notable musicians
for both albums such as Bobby Tench of The Jeff Beck Group, to
Near-constant touring took its toll on King (he was on the road almost
300 days out of the year), and in 1976 he began suffering stomach
ulcers. His health quickly deteriorated and he died on December 28 of
complications from that and acute pancreatitis at the age of 42.
According to those who knew him, King's untimely death was due to both
stress and poor diet (he was in the habit of consuming Bloody Marys in
lieu of solid food so as not to waste time when setting up shows).
In 1993 by proclamation from the Texas Governor Ann Richards September
3, 1993, was declared Freddie King Day. This is an honor reserved for
Lone Star legends, such as Bob Wills and Buddy Holly. Freddie King
placed 15th in Rolling Stone magazine′s list of the 100 greatest
guitarists of all time and in 2012, he was inducted into the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame.