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