"The Texas Cannonball" King (also known as
Freddy King) (September 3,
1934 – December 28, 1976) was an influential American blues guitarist
and singer best known for his recordings from early 1960s including
"Hide Away" and "Have You Ever Loved A Woman" and the album Burglar
recorded in 1974. He was one of the first artists to have a multi-racial
backing band on stage with him at live performances.
Early life 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.
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 up-tempo shuffle. This was for a local label, El-Bee. Robert
Lockwood, Jr. appeared as a sideman on guitar.
The Federal Record Label 1960-1966 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. In live performances, seminal
blues-rock guitarist Lonnie Mack often integrated portions of the tune
into extended blues jams.
After the success of "Hide Away", Syd Nathan who ran Federal label,
set 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", "Just Pickin'", "Sen-Sa-Shun", "Side
Tracked", "San-Ho-Zay", "High Rise" 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. Lonnie Mack played rhythm and second lead
guitar on a number of King's recordings duting this period.
On the personal side, Freddie was fond, perhaps overly fond, of the
Chicago night life. His official website refers to him "Gambling
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.
Atlantic Records 1968-1969 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."
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,
Shelter Records 1969-1973 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.
RSO 1973-1976 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. He toured with Eric Clapton who befriended him holding King in
very high esteem. Following his term at Shelter Records, King signed to
RSO, the same label as Clapton. In 1974 his first album for RSO was
released and entitled Burglar. Tom Dowd produced the track Sugar
Sweet at Criteria Studios in Miami with guitarists Eric Clapton and
George Terry, drummer Jamie Oldaker and bassist Carl Radle. Mike Vernon
is the producer on all other tracks. PP Arnold sings vocals. Vernon
produced a second album Larger than life with King for RSO in 1975.
Bobby Tench from The Jeff Beck Group and bassist DeLisle Harper perform
with King on both albums.
Playing style and influence King played with a plastic thumb pick and a metal index-finger
pick. He had learned this style from Jimmy Rogers. King had a strong
influence on blues-rock musicians such as Stevie Ray Vaughan., Ronnie
Earl, Peter Green and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Clapton told he was
especially deeply moved when he heard King's recording of I Love the
Woman for the first time. The guitar solo of that song was a huge source
of inspiration for him. When young Jimmy Vaughan was giving performances
at bars, King was sometimes watching and gave him some personal advice.
King's Hide Away has become a blues standard and was covered by Eric
Clapton, John Mayall and Stevie Ray Vaughan.. John Mayall also covered
"The Stumble" and "Someday You'll Be Sorry" with Peter Green on guitar.
For his blues album From the Cradle Clapton recorded I'm Tore Down and
Someday You'll Be Sorry. A testament to king's presence on the circuit
of touring rock bands was Grand Funk Railroad's name checking him on
'"We're an American Band". Based on incidents while touring, the song
includes the line "Up all night with Freddie King, got to tell you
poker's his thing".