Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open - 92

atching her baby boy
become rapt whenever his grandma
played country blues
on her guitar, Ella
May King had a notion... So, as
soon as his tiny hands could fret
a string, she found a Silvertone for
little Frederick to start strumming
along
Her intuition set the course for Freddie King to reach
far-ranging musical heights well beyond anything conceivable. From childhood into his teens, King developed
a love for the music, keying on blue players Robert
Johnson, T-Bone Walker, Lightnin' Hopkins, John
Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, and others. Over and over, he'd play
a record by jump-blues saxophonist Louis
Jordan until he'd copped the solo note for
note. The sum impact would help King
become one of the most dynamic and
influential blues guitarists of any
generation.
In the fall of 1949, King's mother
and her husband moved from their
home in Gilmer, Texas, to Chicago,
where they went to work in steel
mills. Having just finished high
school and thrilled by the chance to
become part of that city's flourishing blues scene, Freddie accompanied them and immediately began
to hit the clubs to watch Waters,
Howlin' Wolf, and Little Walter. He
also befriended Otis Rush, "Magic
Sam" Maghett, Buddy Guy, Robert Jr.
Lockwood, and Hound Dog Taylor, all of
whom helped pave his path.
Freddie worked in a mill, then played
gigs at night, gravitating to the smaller
clubs on the West Side, where he and a
few friends could jam in basic combos
instead of the horn-heavy bands favored
on the South Side. In these settings, King
began to develop his sound, turning up his
amp and employing energetic interaction
with the audience. In '53, he recorded his
first songs as a key performer and in the
next several years went on to make some
of the most influential blues music ever
recorded, along the way helping to invent
blues-rock.
While often cited as the Texas element
of the "three kings" of the blues - B.B.
bringing the Memphis sound, Albert a
funkier Stax feel - Freddie's music didn't
have a regional sound or feel. Rather, his
style mixed country and city influences
like Waters, Walker, and Hopkins, employing dramatic extended string bends,

BY WARD MEEKER PHOTOS BY DAVID J. COTHRAN
VINTAGE GUITAR

92

January 2018


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open

Contents
Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open - Cover
Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open - IFC
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