Frederick Martin "Freddie" Roulette (born May 3, 1939) is an American electric blues lap steel guitarist and singer. He is best known as an exponent of the lap steel guitar. Roulette is also a member of the Daphne Blue band and has collaborated with Earl Hooker, Charlie Musselwhite, Henry Kaiser and Harvey Mandel and released several solo albums.
One commentator described Roulette as an "excellent musician". As of August 12, 2013, VidStatsX, a video statistic company, reported Freddie Roulette's work with the Daphne Blue band shows approximately 55,000 views on the video sharing site, YouTube.
Freddie Roulette's family originally came from New Orleans, however he was born and raised in Evanston, Illinois. He 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.
"Earl Hooker was born in 1929 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Hooker was a Chicago slide guitarist in the same league as Elmore James, Hound Dog Taylor, and Robert Nighthawk. Some Chicago blues guitarists even consider Hooker to have been the greatest slide player ever. He was a cousin of John Lee Hooker and taught himself to play guitar around the age of 10 and shortly thereafter his family migrated to Chicago. While a teen, Hooker performed on Chicago street corners, occasionally with Bo Diddley. He also developed a friendship with slide guitarist Robert Nighthawk, which led to Hooker's interest in slide guitar and performances with Robert Nighthawk's group outside of Chicago. In 1949, Hooker moved to Memphis, joined Ike Turner's band, and toured the South. Being in Memphis led to some performances with harmonica ace Sonny Boy Williamson. He became a steady figure on the Chicago blues scene. Hooker made his first recordings mainly 78 rpm and 45 rpm records in 1952 and 1953 for small labels Rockin', King, and Sun. He performed in England with the American Folk Blues Festival package in 1969. Hooker spent most of the '60s playing in Chicago clubs with his band and often with harp player Junior Wells and pianist Pinetop Perkins. Hooker played slide guitar on the 1962 Muddy Waters recording You Shook Me Hooker and helped popularized the double-neck guitar and wah wah pedal."
Earl Hooker's band, with pianist Pinetop Perkins, harmonica player Carey Bell, vocalist Andrew Odom, and Roulette, was "widely acclaimed" and "considered 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.
Roulette later 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, featuring The Holmes Brothers and produced by Kaiser, as well as contributing to Kaiser's own album Yo Miles, a tribute to Miles Davis.
Roulette's 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. In 2012, Jammin' With Friends was recorded at three separate studios with various musicians. It was produced by Michael Borbridge, who also played drums on all the tracks.
Earl Hooker Biography Mentions Freddie Roulette's Contribution to Blues Music
According to a biography of Earl Hooker:
"Earl Hooker died in 1970, his music still continues on in the rock band Daphne Blue, which includes Freddie Roulette, the original Lap Steel guitar player from Hooker's band, and his songwriting partner, Ray Bronner. Although he never received the public recognition to the same extent as some of his contemporaries, Jimi Hendrix proclaimed Earl Hooker as the master of the wah-wah and his talent was greatly respected by other notable musicians such B.B. King, Ike Turner, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy and Magic Sam."
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