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Freddie King

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Gilmer TX, United States (1952 – 1976)

Freddie King (September 3, 1934 – December 28, 1976), thought to have been born as Frederick Christian in Gilmer, Texas, originally recording as Freddy King, and nicknamed “the Texas Cannonball”, was an influential African-American blues guitarist and singer. He is often mentioned as one of “the Three Kings” of electric blues guitar, along with Albert King and B.B. King (though he was the youngest of the three).

King’s mother, Ella May King, and her brother, who both played the guitar, began teaching him to play at the age of six. He liked and imitated the music of Lightnin’ Sam Hopkins and saxophonist Louis Jordan. He moved with his family from Texas to the southside of Chicago in 1950. There, at age 16 he used to sneak in to local clubs, where he heard blues music performed by the likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, T-Bone Walker, Elmore James, and Sonny Boy Williamson. Howlin Wolf took him under his wing (or paw), and Freddie also began jamming with Muddy Waters’ sidemen, who included Eddie Taylor, Jimmy Rogers, Robert Lockwood Jr. and Little Walter.

By 1952 he had started gigged at night and working days in a steel mill (by then he had married a Texas girl, Jessie Burnett). 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.

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