Little Freddie's real name is Fread E. Martin and he was born in McComb, Mississippi, July 19, 1940 down the road from Bo Diddley's place. His father, Jessie James Martin (named by a plantation owner after the outlaw), was a blues guitarist that worked the weekend black southern circuit in the Delta. His father would bring him out on the town when he was out there playin. "I would go out there and sit around on the outside around the juke joints and listening." He's be playin and drinking and everyone was having' fun. Freddie eventually taught himself how to play guitar and develop his country-style blues or as he calls it "Gut Bucket Blues".
At the age of 14, Freddie "hobbed" a train from the sharecropper farm to New Orleans to stay with his sister. There he met such upcoming musicians as Buddy Guy and close friend, 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's arrest me. Finally one of the policeman 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 hung with the "Little Freddie King" appellation as he's been using his real name on gigs up to that point. "Freddy King was really hot then with songs like Hideaway and San-Ho-Zay" said Freddie. People kept telling me I sounded just like Freddy King, because I new all his songs, so they started calling me "Little Freddie King". Big Freddy use to visit New Orleans a lot in those days. He use to hang out at a bar in my neighborhood. One day a friend of his asked if he would play in Marrero (across the river from the city) and Freddy asked me to play bass. After that, I played a couple of jobs around N.O. with him. He wanted me to go to Texas with him but I counld't because of my job.
Generally the 60's were busy years for Freddie, as he played with the likes of Babe Stoval, Polka Dot Slim, Guitar Grady, Guitar Ray, Snooks Eaglin, Billy Tate, Harmonica Williams (from Jackson, Miss.) Boogie Bill Webb, Rev Charles Jacobs (his cousin), Harmonica Slim and Eddie Lang.
"I pretty much stayed lit up all the time back then," said Freddie. I played a lot around N.O. area with Harmonica Williams, and then after the job we'd go to Logtown or Bayou Liberty and play in juke joints. Then we'd come back to N.O. around one or two in the morning and play the Dew Drop Inn. where Guitar Shorty had the house band. 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 an annual attraction at the New Orleans Jazz Festival and toured Europe with Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker in 1976 in support of his first LP. His most amazing gig though occurred in 1981, when he embarked on a six month tour of the Western States when he hosted college 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. His "Born Died in Mississippi" became a regional hit. Since the new millennium 2000, Freddie has performed at the N.O. Jazz Festival and French Quater Festival (USA), Montreal Jazz Festival and Ottawa Blues Festival (Canada), Blues to Bop Festival (Switzerland), Nancy Jazz Pulsation Festival, JVC Festival and Festival de Lille (France), Blues Estafette (Holland), Burnley Blues Festival (England), Debrecen Jazz Festival (Hungary) Portsmouth Blues Festival, Savannah Music Festival, King Biscuit Blues Festival (USA). Terra Blues Club (New York), Chesterfields and New Morning Cafe' (Paris).
JEFF HANNUSCH author of "I Hear You Knockin" The Sound of New Orleans R&B