The Three Kings

Once upon a time, there were three kings: Albert, B.B. and Freddie.

From the 1960’s into the early 1970’s, these three men reigned throughout the land as masters in the realm of Electric Blues Guitar.

Freddie was the youngest.

Born in Gilmer, Texas on September 3, 1934, he also had the shortest career, spanning  19 years from his first recording released in 1957 until his death in 1976. He left his mark on popular music starting with the 1961 release of the instrumental “Hide Away.” This was the first of a string of up-tempo Blues/Rock instrumentals that became not only hit records, but were almost instantly added to the performance repertoire of countless guitarists and cover bands.

In terms of influence, it is safe to say that, directly or indirectly, there’s at least a little Freddie King in every Blues and/or Rock electric guitar player everywhere.

On Saturday, April 14, 2012, Freddie King was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, entering under the category of “Early Influences.” Fellow Texans Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill from the band ZZ Top, served as presenters. Freddie joins B.B. King (inducted in 1987), but not Albert, in the Hall.

Here’s a video of Freddie King playing “Hide Away” in 1966 on a show called The Beat.

How much more “1960’s” can you get?

Freddie King got his sound in part, by the way he picked the strings of his Gibson guitar. He played “fingerstyle,” meaning that he used both his thumb and first finger to pluck the strings – instead of picking with a flatpick held by the thumb and first finger, as B.B. does. He increased the brightness of his fingerstyle tone by wearing a plastic thumb pick on his thumb and a banjo-style metal fingerpick on his index finger.

Finally, he amplified his guitar with a pair of large Fender guitar amps turned up to 10.

That’s playing really, really loud.

Freddie King once said: “You can’t get to Rock & Roll unless you can play the Blues, baby.”

Congratulations, Freddie. 

Long live the Kings.

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