Freddie King: Patriarch Of Blues Rock The Texan, whose biting guitar sound influenced artists from Eric Clapton to Jeff Beck, will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this Saturday.

Freddie King: Patriarch Of Blues Rock

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel. This weekend, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will induct its latest class and most of the attention will be on the big names - Donovan, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Beastie Boys.

CORNISH: But countless guitar players around the world will celebrate another honoree, the late Freddie King. He's being remembered as an early influence on the likes of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Carlos Santana, to name just a few.

NPR's Eric Westervelt has this appreciation of the bluesman they called the Texas Cannonball.

ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: Among the three kings of electric blues, along with B.B. and Albert, Freddie King is the last to be inducted into the Rock Hall, but in some ways, that mirrors his career. Freddie's probably the least well-known of the three Kings - they're not related - but arguably, he had the most influence on rock guitarists.


WESTERVELT: King's blues style was fluid, but with a biting power that was just a little more forceful and rocking than other bluesmen of his day.


WESTERVELT: He used thumb and finger picks and would just dig into that Gibson 355 hung precariously over just his right shoulder, creating electric solos that are now part of the blues-rock pantheon.


FREDDIE KING: (Singing) I love you, baby, with all my might. A love like mine is out of sight. I'll lie for you if you want me to. I really don't believe your love is true. Well, I'm tore down. I'm almost level with the ground.

WESTERVELT: Born and raised in Texas, Freddie King's mom and uncle taught him guitar basics. At first, he soaked up acoustic blues and country, but in late 1949, he moved to Chicago with his family at the age of 15. It was there that King learned from such electric Chicago blues greats as Jimmie Rodgers and Muddy Waters and, eventually, came up with his signature sound.


WESTERVELT: That's King's classic instrumental, "Hideaway," named after a famed Chicago bar and, he admitted, stolen in part from a Hound Dog Taylor tune. "Hideaway" became King's trademark song in 1961. That year, he had an incredible six hits in the R&B top 30 and three top 10 hits, including "I'm Tore Down" and "Hideaway," a tune covered by Eric Clapton on his first album with the Blues Breakers.


JOE BONAMASSA: My first introduction to the song, "Hideaway," was on the John Mayall and the Blues Breakers' record with Eric Clapton.

WESTERVELT: Blues-rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa says once he heard King's later recordings, he was hooked on the sound.

BONAMASSA: Freddie always had a real dry, immediate sound, slung that 355 over his shoulder and plug into a Fender amp on the normal channel, no reverb, and just turn it all the way up to 10 and then he would govern the guitar just by how hard he picked it.


KING: (Singing) Come on, baby, let the good times roll. Oh, baby. Oh, baby.

BONAMASSA: Freddie was more of a rock guitar player.

WESTERVELT: Fittingly, Joe Bonamassa will help posthumously induct King, Saturday, with a Rock Hall jam session in Freddie's honor.

BONAMASSA: And I can easily identify his sound and his style because it's just the attack and the intensity. And it's like you can tell who he is in three notes, you know.


WESTERVELT: King died way too young. A poor diet and constant touring hammered his health. He died in 1976 after a U.S. tour. He was just 42. His eldest daughter, Wanda, who watches over his musical legacy, says she's thrilled her dad is finally being honored. She'll represent the family at the Rock Hall induction and she's most heartened by the fact that kids today know, just as Clapton, Beck and Stevie Ray knew, you have to go through Freddie if you want to get to blues rock. She says she gets emails all the time from around the world.

WANDA KING: Just recently, we had one from a 14-year-old boy from Brazil. He'd just bought his first Freddie King CD and he bought a guitar. I mean, that's awesome. Young kids are into Freddie King if they're into the guitar.

WESTERVELT: So who knows? Maybe the next blues rock great is practicing right now in Brazil or Bratislava, working those pentatonic blues scales, up all night with Freddie King.

Eric Westervelt, NPR News.

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