Martin 'Freddie' Roulette (born May 3, 1939) is an American
Chicago blues and electric blues guitarist and singer. He is best known as
an exponent of the lap steel guitar. In a lengthy career, he has
collaborated with Earl Hooker,
Charlie Musselwhite, Henry Kaiser,
and Harvey Mandel, and released several
One commentator described Roulette as an 'excellent musician'.
Roulette, whose family came from New Orleans, was born and raised in
Evanston, Illinois, and learned to play steel guitar in high school. He
started playing in clubs in Chicago in his teens, and in 1965 began work in
Earl Hooker's backing band, continuing to
tour and perform with him until 1969. That band, with pianist
Pinetop Perkins, harmonica player
Carey Bell, vocalist Andrew Odom, and
Roulette, was 'widely acclaimed' and 'considered [as] one of the best Earl
had ever carried with him'. Roulette participated on several of Hooker's
singles, his 1967 album, The Genius of Earl Hooker, and the 1969 follow-up,
Two Bugs and a Roach. He developed a friendship with Charlie Musselwhite,
and recorded with him (credited as Fred Roulette) on the 1969 band album
Chicago Blue Stars. He then toured with Musselwhite, and backed him on the
albums Tennessee Woman and Memphis, Tennessee, before relocating to the San
Francisco, California, area where he has lived ever since. When there, he
played in a band with Luther Tucker, and recorded with Earl Hooker's cousin,
John Lee Hooker.
In 1973, Roulette released his debut solo album, Sweet Funky Steel, which
was produced by his fellow guitarist, Harvey Mandel. Don 'Sugarcane' Harris
also played on several tracks. Over the next twenty years, he continued to
perform with other musicians and occasionally led his own band, while also
working full-time as an apartment manager. The 1996 album, Psychedelic
Guitar Circus, saw him work in a group format with Mandel, Kaiser and Steve
Kimock. His solo 1997 album, Back in Chicago: Jammin' with Willie Kent and
the Gents, had Roulette recording with both Willie Kent and Chico Banks. The
album won the Living Blues magazine award as Best Blues Album of 1997.
Following that album's success, Roulette began performing widely at blues
festivals, and followed it up with the 1998 album Spirit of Steel, produced
by Kaiser, as well as contributing to Kaiser's own album Yo Miles, a tribute
to Miles Davis.
Roulette's most recent solo album, Man of Steel (2006), incorporated guitar
playing contributions from Will Bernard and David Lindley, as well as guitar
and production duties from Kaiser. It was recorded in Fantasy Studios, in
Berkeley, California, and included strains of jazz, country, soul and reggae
in the overall blues setting. In the same year, Roulette played locally in a
small combo including Mike Hinton.
Roulette has played at a number of outdoor events over the years, including
the Long Beach Blues Festival, the San Francisco Blues Festival (1979), and
the Calgary Folk Music Festival (2000). He has also continued to play club
dates in the San Francisco area, often with Harvey Mandel.