Freddie King’s upcoming 2012 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame marks a long-overdue honor for a seminal blues guitar god who continues to be worshipped and emulated by multiple generations of notable axemen. Although his career was tragically cut short by his untimely death at the age of 42, Freddie King was one of America’s most distinctive and influential electric guitarists. King’s raw, raucous trademark style, which reflected his roots in both Texas and Chicago, left an indelible mark on such guitar superstars as Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Rolling Stones’ Mick Taylor.
Born in Dallas in 1934, King began playing guitar at the age of six. In his teens, he moved with his family to Chicago’s fabled South Side, a neighborhood that was ground zero for the development of urban electric blues. There, the underage King began sneaking into local clubs, witnessing gigs by such electric blues heroes as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, T-Bone Walker, Elmore James and Sonny Boy Williamson. King was still in his teens when he formed his first band and began working as a sideman with local blues combos; he soon established himself as one of the hottest players on the local scene.
King made his first records in 1956, but his recording career didn’t really take off until he moved, appropriately enough, to the Cincinnati-based King label in 1960. There, he scored a series of instrumental hits beginning with 1961’s “Hide Away.” It became his signature number and a much-covered blues standard, followed by such memorable tunes as “San-Ho-Zay,” “The Stumble,” “Freeway 75″ and “Funnybone,” and such classic LPs as Let’s Hide Away and Dance Away with Freddy King and Freddy King Gives You a Bonanza of Instrumentals (both available from Sundazed in pristine mono 180-gram vinyl editions).
By the late ’60s, King had broadened his audience considerably and increased his appeal to white rock fans, thanks in part his tireless touring and to his collaborations with such prominent King fans as Eric Clapton and Leon Russell. At the time of his death in 1976, King was playing for the biggest audiences of his career, and his reputation has only grown in the years since.