Little Freddie King
Born in McComb, Mississippi in 1940, Fread E. Martin grew up playing alongside his blues guitar-picking father (Jessie James Martin), then rode the rails to New Orleans during the early fifties where he crossed paths with itinerant South Louisiana blues man such as “Poka- Dot” Slim and “Boogie” Bill Webb whose unique country-cum-urban styles would influence his own. Honing his guitar chops at notorious joints like the Bucket of Blood (which he later immoralized in song), he jammed and gigged with Bo Diddley and John Lee Hooker, and also played bass for Freddy King during one of the guitarist’s stints in New Orleans. People began comparing the two musicians’ styles, hence Martin’s nome-de-plume. While well-vested in a variety of styles, nowadays Little Freddie sounds a lot more like his cousin Lightin’ Hopkins – albeit after a three day corn liquor bender! Nevertheless, the King sobriquet if fitting, as Freddie is undeniably the monarch of the Crescent City blues scene.
Freddie’s mid-sixties recording debut – an unreleased session for Booker/Invicta Records – is one that will seemingly live forever in blues infamy. The very same notorious basement set-up that released so many killer discs by gospel guitar-slinger the Reverend Charlie Jackson – as well as below-the-radar classics by the Zion Harmonizers, the Rocks of Harmony and Sister Alberta – the pairing of label and artist could hardly have been more perfect. If the lost tape is ever discovered, it’ll be a watershed day in musicial history, so start digging!!
Slightly easier to find, but occasionally almost as elusive, is Freddie’s actual debut, a 1971 LP on New Orleans’ Ahura Mazda Records on which he shared billing with his band mate John S. “Harmonica” Williams, Unofficially titled Rock and Roll Blues, the nine original songs that make up the LP are raw, gut-wrenching and filled with passion. “Born Dead” is an unbelievable survey of racism in Mississippi courtesy of vocalist Newton Greer, while Williams and King are featured strongly throughout. Freddie contributes two rocking instrumentals, “Sideways” and “The Kings’ Special.” While it was a milestone in New Orleans blues, the album’s potent nastiness went under appreciated at the time. Leave it to Little Freddie to resurface 36 years later with Swamp Boogie – Orleans Records, an album of purely original material (notable titles are “The Great Chinese” and “Cat Squall Blues”) that features the likes of Earl “Pass the Hatchet” Stanley on bass!
He followed it in 2000 with Sing Sang Sung, a greasy live set that documented more New Orleans street poetry like “Bad Chicken” and the aforementioned “Bucket of Blood”.