“If you want the real blues – and I’m not talkin’ about some long-haired hippy beatin’ on a National Resonator guitar or a mustachiod, Italian-suited slickster blowin’ on a chromatic harmonica – baby, you’d better call Little Freddie King.” – Dr. Ira Padnos, musicologist.
How We Helped:
Little Freddie King became part of the Music Maker family in 1998. Since becoming a Music Maker artist, Little Freddie has received glasses and dentures, help with evacuating from New Orleans after Katrina and moving back later, and grants for prescription medicine. Little Freddie was assisted by the New Orleans Musicians Fund. Music Maker has also helped him issue his CD At Home in the New Orleans Musician’s Village, and featured him on compilation CDs.
Little Freddie’s real name is Fread E. Martin and he was born in McComb, Mississippi on July 19, 1940 down the road from Bo Diddley’s place. His father, Jessie James Martin, was a Blues guitarist who worked the weekend Southern circuit in the Delta. His father would bring Freddie out on the town when he was to play a show.
I would go out there and sit around on the outside around the juke joints and listenin. He’d be playin and drinkin and everyone was havin’ fun.
Freddie eventually taught himself how to play guitar and soon after, he developed his unique country-style Blues or as he calls it “Gut Bucket Blues”.
At the age of 17, Freddie moved from the farm to New Orleans to stay with his sister. In New Orleans, he met such upcoming stars as Buddy Guy and Slim Harpo. However, adapting to life in the big city wasn’t easy as Freddie explains. “I got lost all the time,” he said. “All the houses looked the same. I had to get the police to take me home or else they’d arrest me. Finally one of the policemen told me to look at the street sign and the number on the houses. It got easy to get around after that.”
It was in the early 1960’s that Freddie was given the “Little Freddie King” appellation as he’d been using his real name on gigs up to that point. “Freddie King was really hot then with songs like ‘Hideaway’ and ‘San-Ho-Zay’,” said Freddie. “People kept telling me I sounded just like Freddie King, so they started calling me ‘Little Freddie King’. Big Freddie lived in New Orleans in the Desire Projects for a couple of years. I lived not too far away. I went on a lot of gigs with him. He didn’t mind me being called Little Freddie King. He wanted me to go to Texas with him but I couldn’t because of my job.”
Generally the 1960’s were busy years for Little Freddie, as he played with the likes of Polka Dot Slim, Guitar Grady, Guitar Ray, Snooks Eaglin, Billy Tate, Harmonica Williams, Boogie Bill Webb, Rev. Charles Jacobs (his cousin) and Eddie Lang.
“I pretty much stayed lit up all the time back then,” said Freddie. I played a lot around New Orleans area with Harmonica Williams, and then after the job we’d go to Logtown or Bayou Liberty and play. Then we’d come back to New Orleans around one or two in the morning and play the Dew Drop Inn. I’d go get a pint of corn liquor. Then I’d wake up and we’d do it all over again.”
Little Freddie King became a charter member and an annual attraction at the New Orleans Jazz Festival and toured Europe with Bo Diddley, Texas Alexander and John Lee Hooker in 1976. His most amazing gig occurred in 1981, when he embarked on a six-month tour of the Western States when he hosted workshops on the Blues. His 1970 recording titled “Harmonica Williams and Little Freddie King” is believed to be the first electric Blues album recorded in New Orleans.