If you want the real blues – and I’m not talkin’ about some long-haired hippy beatin’ on a National Resonator guitar or a mustachioed, Italian-suited slickster blowin’ on a chromatic harmonica – baby, you’d better call Little Freddie King. Normally only seen once a month at B.J.’s, a lounge located in the lowest bowels of the Ninth Ward where he shares floor space with a pool table and various carpet remnants, don’t think for a second that his band won’t be able to create the proper mood without their usual scrappy surroundings. The minute Freddie straps on his guitar and strikes up his gnarled chord and drummer “Wacko” Wade makes his presence known with a definitive cymbal crash, this lean, mean, swampy aggregation of gut-bucket wild men transforms the poshest of venues into a back-o-town beer joint.
Born in McComb, Mississippi in 1940, Fread Martin grew up playing alongside his blues guitar-picking father, then rode the rails to New Orleans during the early fifties where he crossed paths with itinerant South Louisiana blues man such as Polka 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 immortalized in song), he jammed and gigged with Bo Diddley and John Lee Hooker, and also played bass for Big Freddy King during his visits to New Orleans. People began comparing the two musicians ‘styles, hence Martin’s nome-de-plume. While well-versed 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 is fitting, as Freddie is undeniably the monarch of the New Orleans 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 musical history, so start digging!!