Texas bluesman Freddie (originally ‘Freddy’) King was often named as one of ‘the Three Kings’ alongside BB and Albert. Although not as well-known as the other two, there was no blues guitarist more respected by his peers.
Born on 3 September 1934 in Gilmer, East Texas, he got his first guitar when he was five and emulated the Lightnin’ Hopkins style of country-blues fingerpicking. When he was a teenager, his family moved to Chicago and King got into the blues in a serious way.
Muddy Waters would sneak him into the Zanzibar Club where he would regularly sit at Muddy’s feet and learn from him. He stayed in Chicago until 1962, working as a sideman and eventually forming his own band.
Clean, incredibly fast playing was his trademark and no one could equal him at that. He took the best of the electric blues style that sprang up in Chicago in the early 1950s and added to that a Texas country-blues influence that made his style immediately identifiable.
King played his last blues on Christmas night, 1976, at the New York Ballroom in Dallas. Three days later he was dead at the age of 42.
The day after Christmas, King began feeling ill and was admitted to Dallas’ Presbyterian Hospital. On Tuesday 28 December he died from a series of ailments: heart failure, a blood clot, and internal bleeding from ulcers.