Like pianist Henry Gray, guitarist, singer, and songwriter Little Freddie King enjoys something of a revered senior status in his hometown of New Orleans. He's revered because there aren't that many musicians his age performing as frequently and with such gusto and vigor as he displays.
Now in his seventies, King believes in keeping active, like his octogenarian friend, pianist Henry Gray. King keeps touring, recording, and of course, playing as many gigs as possible each year in the Crescent City. He has a monthly residency gig at BJ's Lounge in the city's lower 9th ward.
During Hurricane Katrina, the spry King simply rode his bike through encroaching flood waters to make his way to safety.
King was born Fread E. Martin in 1940 in McComb, MS, the same town that gave blues lovers Ellis McDaniel, better known as Bo Diddley, and Omar Kent Dykes. King grew up playing guitar alongside his guitar-playing father, Jesse James Martin, who showed him his first few chords.
In the mid-'50s, King he took the train to New Orleans where he met up with and learned from the likes of Polka Dot Slim and "Boogie Bill" Webb, and also shared stages and time with John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley. He also played bass for Freddie King, the Texas guitar wizard. People talked about and compared their guitar styles, and some said they sounded very similar, so Martin became Little Freddie King. King's cousin was another pioneer acoustic and electric bluesman, Lightnin' Hopkins.
King's recording debut didn't come about until 1970, after an earlier, mid-60's Crescent City recording session was never released. Called Rock and Roll Blues, it consisted of nine songs on an LP for the Ahura Mazda label, a local Crescent City record company. Like his more recent '90s and 2000s recordings, Rock and Roll Blues is as raw, gut-bucket, and visceral as you can imagine, accompanied by his then-harmonica player, John S. "Harmonica" Williams.
After an absence from recording for more than three decades, King once again got behind the microphone in 1997 to release Swamp Boogie for Orleans Records. He followed up with Sing Sang Sung in 2000 for the same label. In 2005, he recorded and released You Don't Know What I Know for Fat Possum Records, and more recently, he's recorded Messin' Around tha House in 2008 for MadeWright Records and Gotta Walk with da King in February, 2010, also for MadeWright. Gotta Walk with da King was recorded live at the 9th Annual Thirsty Ear Festival in Santa Fe, NM, and unlike so many live recordings, this one takes advantage of all the latest available advancements in recording technologies. It features clear definition between band and audience, as well as bandmembers' instruments, and there are just the right hints of audience ambience. Although he's based himself in New Orleans since he was a teenager, King's guitar and singing styles are based back in his Mississippi Delta hometown of McComb. He's always used his thumb as his pick, giving his guitar playing a fuller, earthier sound. ~ Richard Skelly, Rovi