Saturday, December 31, 2011

Freddy King - Chicago Blues Guitarist

Freddy King is sometimes described as a bluesman, but he successfully blended many different styles of music and came up with his own distinctive sound. He was one of the first blues guitarists who broke through to a main stream audience. His instrumental hits, such asHideaway, influenced many a young guitar player, among them Eric Clapton. His many songs have been covered by Jeff Beck, Clapton, Peter Green, and ZZ Top.
Freddy King was born in 1934 in Gilmer, Texas. By 1940, he had already learned to play the guitar and by 1949, moved to Chicago.Once he arrived, he went to blues clubs where Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter performed. He often sat in with these bands and made friends with the musicians. His skills were growing, as the guitarists he met often taught him new techniques.
In 1956, he made his first record, signed to the El-Bee label in Chicago. The single, Country Boy/That’s Not What You Think was released. It was not a hit, and Freddy did not record again for at least 4 years.
Freddy signed to the King/Federal label in 1960 and recorded several singles, many of them having vocals on the A side, and an instrumental in the B side. A B side,Hideway, became a success on blues and rock radio reaching #5 on the R&B charts and #29 on the pop charts. He followed up with an instrumental album called Let’s Hide Away and Dance Away.
Freddy continued his success throughout the 1960s, with many releases. He did his first tour of Europe in 1969, and toured with Eric Clapton in 1974. Eric Clapton recorded a cover of Hideaway on the John Mayall Bluesbreakers “Beano” album in 1965. This album is often credited with inventing the sound of rock guitar, the classic combo of a Gibson Les Paul and a Marshall Bluesbreaker amplifier.
Freddy used mostly Gibson ES-355 guitars for much of his career. He also used and ES-345, Les Pauls and a Firebird. He did not use a flat pick, using a steel finger pick on his right-hand forefinger and a plastic thumb pick on his thumb. He used Fender Twin Reverb and a Fender Quad combo amplifier near the end of his career.
Freddy died of pancreatitis on December 18, 1976 at the age of 42

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gretchen Menn

I just discovered this great guitarist, Gretchen Menn, thanks to the folks at

How many people in the world go from being a commercial pilot career to a career as a guitarist? There are a few who do the opposite - Steve Morse and Bruce Dickenson come to mind.

Gretchen gave up her short career as a pilot to pursue her dream of music. A graduate of Smith College with a degree in music, it says on her web site:

After a year in the jet, with the life of an airline pilot being more than a little incompatible with a career in music, Gretchen relinquished her position with the airlines, knowing that there was a pilot out there somewhere who would appreciate the opportunity. She decided to take a more direct approach to realizing her musical dreams.

And she has.

Her music spans jazz, funk, rock, progressive, and metal. In 2007, she formed Sticks and Stones, with guitarist Mickael Tremel and drummer Sam Adato. She has played in a Led Zeppelin tribute band, Zeperalla, and is currently at work on her first solo release.

Gretchen has been influenced by Jeff Beck, Eric Johnson, Steve Morse, and Frank Zappa, which shows in her music. I detect a number of Eric Johnson styles in her songs, and her sound is very much like Steve Morse. Not copying him, but adding a new twist to it.

Gretchen is the daughter of renowned music journalist and Guitar Player magazine editor, Don Menn.

Monday, December 5, 2011

3.2 Million Ink Dots

Wow! Incredible amount of pre-planning and patience needed to do this!

Hero from Miguel Endara on Vimeo.