Freddie King was truly a king of Texas blues. A guitarist, singer, and songwriter, he is considered one of the “Three Kings of the Blues Guitar”, along with Albert King and B.B. King. No blood relation to either! Texas-born, Texas still claims Freddie King as its son. He began learning the guitar at the age of six and formed his first band, Every Hour Blues Boys, in Chicago as a teenager with fellow blues guitarist Jimmie Lee Robinson and drummer Frank ‘Sonny’ Scott. He contributed to the blues movement in Chicago as one of the few musicians from the West Side who challenged the South Side musicians like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf starting in the late 1950s. He was known for aggressive, virtuosic blues, much like fellow guitarists Otis Rush and Magic Sam.
Freddie earned many accolades during his career. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1982 and later into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. His instrumental song “Hide Away” is included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of “500 Songs that Shaped Rock.” He has been ranked twice in Rolling Stone’s editions of “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time,” 25th in 2003 and 15th in 2011.
His breakout single “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” was later covered by English guitarist-singer Eric Clapton. Clapton would go on to become the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In a 1994 interview, Clapton was quoted as saying, “I was interested in the white rock ‘n’ rollers until I heard Freddie King – and then I was over the moon. I knew that was where I belonged – finally. That was serious, proper guitar playing and I haven’t changed my mind ever since.”
Some of his other well-known songs include “Hide Away,” “You’ve Got to Love Her with a Feeling,” and “I’m Tore Down.”
King’s style was one-of-a-kind. It was intuitive, and he often created guitar parts with vocal nuances. He achieved this by using the open-string sound of Texas blues and combined it with the raw, screaming tones of west side Chicago blues. He had a soulful and powerful voice that melted with his distinctive guitar playing to create an incredible sound. He is known to have influenced some of the greatest contemporary blues guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Lonnie Mack.
Near the end of his career, King was known to down a couple of Bloody Mary’s before stepping on stage. He once famously told a journalist he drank them because “they’ve got food in them.”