I hear jingle bells: Freddie King's in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Per this morning's heads-up from Cleveland, the Gilmer-born guitarist, singer and songwriter is this year's entry in the Early Influence category; damn right. His newly penned Hall bio lists the myriad reasons -- for starters, "His '60s classics, 'Have You Ever Loved A Woman,' 'Hide Away,' 'You've Got To Love Her With A Feeling' and 'The Stumble' are part of the DNA of modern electric blues" -- and, as noted before, he's the man who walked the guitar from T-Bone Walker to Stevie and Jimmie Vaughan. He brought the blues into the future. Just ask Eric Clapton.
That March 31, 1975, KZEW performance to which I linked in the summer of 2010 is gone, but not gone; it's just over here now, a vibrant, visceral blast of blues straight out of January Sound Studio with a set list that could have been carved on a stone tablet ("Big Legged Woman," "Have You Ever Loved a Woman," "Woman Across the River," "Hide Away," "Come On (Part III)"). I listen to it several times a week; it's as timeless as The Texas Cannonball, who's now, at long last, enshrined and immortalized amongst giants who built their careers on his echoes.
Another essential King recording: Live at The Electric Ballroom, said to contain the only known acoustic King performances. First issued by Black Top Records in '95, you can also hear King talk about his life and music with the great Jon Dillon, a discovery from The Wayback Machine. In that album's liner notes, Freddie's daughter Wanda -- who, as I wrote back in '98, has spent decades fiercely protecting her father's music and legacy -- notes his influences, among them Porter Wagoner. "He just loved music. It didn't matter if it was blues, R&B, opera, pop or gospel," she wrote. "He gave blues a modern twist."
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Come December 28, King will have been dead exactly 35 years: The stress of nonstop touring, and all that accompanies the lifestyle, devoured the great man at the young age of 42; he died of bleeding ulcers and pancreatitis at Presbyterian Hospital. He's buried at Sparkman/Hillcrest on Northwest Highway. Stop by when you have the chance. Congratulate him. He's in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.