NEW YORK: The Real King Of The Blues - by J. Blake

Posted on 7/21/2009 by J. Blake

Out of all three of the major electric bluesmen that shared the last name “King”, he is probably the least known, yet arguably the most influential to the legendary rock axemen that followed him. Everyone from Stevie Ray Vaughan to Jeff Beck and even Papa Chubby have covered his most famous songs, but the biggest and probably most clear-cut evidence of his influence rears its head very time Eric Clapton sings or plays the blues.

The 'King' in question is of course the Texas Cannonball himself, Freddie. Clapton has often said (including in his autobiography) that Freddie’s solo on I Love the Woman was what inspired him to learn single-note soloing. “It was absolutely earth-shattering for me, like a new light for me to move toward.” Clapton has also admitted that the reason he played a Les Paul guitar in the mid-60s was because he had seen a picture in a record store of King playing that same guitar.

The Texas blues legend’s influence emanates out of Clapton and was especially noticeable on the 1994 blues tribute album FROM THE CRADLE, where Clapton covered King’s I’m Tore Down and Someday After a While. As well as on the accompanying, "The Nothing but the Blues" Tour where the slow standard Have Your Ever Loved a Woman? was played nightly. Signs of Freddie certainly show in Clapton’s playing, “'If I'm building a solo, I'll start with a Freddie King line”, but especially in recent years you can hear the influence in the aging rocker’s voice. Clapton sings with a confidence now that he didn’t have in the 70s or even 80s and as he belts out the blues with authority and guttural growls, you can definitely hear Ol’ Slowhand attempting to channel his Texas blues hero.

During the mid-70s the two guitar giants were able to play together quite a bit and luckily some of the fruits of those collaborations can be found on the album that commemorates King’s life and untimely death, FREDDIE KING (1934-1976). It is in this album’s liner notes that my favorite Clapton quote can be found, “He taught me just about everything I needed to know…when and when not to make a stand…when and when not to show your hand…and most important of all…how to make love to a guitar.”

Freddie King was born in Texas on September 3rd, 1934. His mother and uncle began teaching him guitar when he was only six years-old and then in 1949 he and his family moved to the South Side of Chicago, an event documented with the first line of his auto-biographical hit Palace of the King, “I was born down in Dallas, raised up in the city of the wind.” By age 16 he was frequenting blues clubs and it was this magical combination of Texas and Chicago guitar influences that created his signature style.

He led the life of a true bluesman, recording 160-odd songs in the studio and touring the world extensively before it all caught up with him on December 28, 1976. Freddie King died of bleeding ulcers and heart failure at the age of 42, leaving behind a wife, 7 children and a musical legacy that inspires every kid that picks up the guitar and learns to solo over a 12-bar blues.

As for me, Freddie continues to inspire. His studio work contains an energy that few non-live recordings manage to achieve. The addition of funk combined with his classic blues-style in the 70s, in my opinion makes for some of the best music made in that very musically fruitful decade. The song Place of the King never ceases to impress me when I listen to it and he is one of the few blues artists whose collection of instrumentals is as notable as his lyrical blues standards. His guitar-style is breathtaking and his vocals are awe inspiring. In my humble opinion, he has the quintessential “blues voice”. In 2003 Rolling Stone Magazine put him at number 25 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Players of All Time, but I personally would’ve ranked him higher.

The album mentioned above, FREDDIE KING (1934-1976) is by far not his best work, but it was the first Freddie CD I ever bought. It contains a few live tracks, which are of course “smoking”, as well as several studio tracks, most of which feature Clapton and his mid-70’s touring band (George Terry, Dick Sims, Carl Radle and Jamie Oldaker). King, Clapton and Terry’s give and take on songs like TV Mama, Gambling Woman Blues and the live version of Further on up the Road are certainly worth the price of admission.

In current Freddie news, I’m not certain of the exact date yet (it seems that every website I look at lists something different), but within the next month or so Bear Family Records will be releasing an amazing 7CD box set featuring every Freddie King studio recording ever released. The set will be titled TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS and will include a 104 page hardcover book. It will undoubtedly satisfy even the most diehard Freddie fans...or any blues fan for that matter.

Here's a little treat:

Also, please check out some NYC Blues with J. Blake & The Earthquake at: or as well as on Facebook.


Freddie King (1934-1976)

Copyright © 2009 - J. Blake. All Rights Reserved

American Blues News Staff

What makes American Blues News unique is our coverage across America. Here is our lineup:

Mon: Memphis Correspondent - Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms
Nighthawk is our resident globetrotter and man behind the scenes, as he tours with the Reba Russell Band.

Tues: New York Correspondent - J. Blake
Blake is the American Blues News review and interview guru. You may catch him out and about in NY playing the blues.

Wed: National Correspondent - Monica Yasher
Monica is our executive director and artist interview specialist. You can catch Monica singing the blues around Pittsburgh or working on some country music songs in Nashville.

Thurs: Washington, DC Correspondent - Virginiabluesman
Geraldo offers inteviews and reviews. You may have seen him at an Ana Popovic concert or conversed with him on her websites, as he offers administrative support with her music.

Fri: Northeast Photographer - Nelson Onofre
Nelson offers a Friday column of blues photography and pictorial support for the interviews covered by the team.

Jim Stick in Colorado
Jim will be focusing on the Blues Festivals in the beautiful state of Colorado, and the artists that live and visit there.

Maureen Elizabeth, our resident art correspondent, will be focusing on blues art as she explores the creation of CD covers, or speaking with artists who also have a love of creating pictorial art in addition to their music! She may also feature some of her good friends in the Pittsburgh area. In her love of art, you may find Maureen's photography accompanying writer's articles on our pages. Maureen is also our marketing director.

Pittsburgh correspondent and photographer, CR Bennett, will share the Pittsburgh scene with all of you. You may also see CR's pictures accompanying other writer's articles.

We head to the big state of Texas! Abby Owen, our Texas correspondent.

Another big area to cover, the West Coast with Casey Reagan, Casey will feature many artists and events on this ocean's shores.

Lastly, we have our roving blues entertainment writer,
Chef Jimi.

And of course, we will surprise you sometimes!

Internet Marketingdata recovery