No matter what you include in a best of list, or a most important list or a most influential list you will always have arguments or debate and will almost assuredly elicit comments. Which I welcome. It could make this a fun post. I thought I would do this in a way that gave equal value to best music and influence. But then I remembered this is supposed to be a starter kit. Sometimes the most important or influential music is not always the easiest to listen too. I then decided that I would select the records (yes, records) and other things that drew me to the blues.
It is always so hard to make these choices. Some are automatic. Some are not as clear. Robert Johnson, T-Bone Walker and Muddy Waters are obvious choices for most lists but not necessarily for this one. When I was starting to appreciate blues I found it very difficult to listen to Robert Johnson. Firstly, because of the primitive nature of the sound and secondly, the poor sound quality. This list will have what I think are items that have great music, great influence and also that essential accessability for new blues fans.
I remember when I was in my early 20′s, I was into heavy metal and also jazz rock fusion. It was a weird combination, I know. However, it wasn’t that odd when you consider it was all guitar oriented music. I love guitar. During this time, I used to head to this huge thrift market that was open every weekend. In the very back corner stall of this huge barn-like building was a little guy who used to scour the city buying up people’s record collections. He would spend the week searching and buying and on the weekend he would sell them. He also took trades too, which was a savior to a broke student like myself. It was during one of these trips that I had my eyes opened to the blues.
On that fateful Saturday, I arrived early, as was the practice, to be able to scan through his best finds before they were all sold and when I walked in I heard this music that stopped me in my tracks. It’s interesting when people can tell you where they were when JFK was shot. I can tell you where I was when I found the blues. It was in a little stall in thrift market in Vancouver, Canada. It was simple music played on a crappy one-piece turntable stereo. It captured my attention though and even there it sounded wonderful. I had to have a copy of that. I found out that it was a song called “The Stumble” by a happy-looking chubby man (he looked that way on the sleeve) named Freddy King. The record was called “Let’s Hide Away and Dance Away with Freddy King (strictly instrumental)”.
The only problem with selecting this record is that it was all instrumental and Freddy was so much more than just a guitar player. He didn’t get the credit or recognition he deserved, due to his relatively short life perhaps. He died in 1976 at the age of 43. More than likely his being overshadowed by the other King’s (BB and Albert) had a large effect too. How many King’s could blues have?
Freddy King was a powerhouse in his own right though. He was a first-rate, clever and original guitar player. He was unique. When you hear Freddy King you know it. He stands out. He had a sound all his own. The area where Freddy gets shortchanged is the vocal department. He was a great singer. He had a big soulful voice with a real fire. For this reason I thought it would be better to choose a record that highlights both his playing and singing. So having said all that my first choice for this list in no particular order is “Hide Away: The Best of Freddy King”.
1 Country Boy (Whitfield) 2:30
2 That’s What You Think (Washington, Whitfield) 2:36
3 Have You Ever Loved a Woman? (Myles) 3:07
4 You’ve Got to Love Her With a Feeling (King, Thompson) 3:15
5 Hide Away (King, Thompson) 2:36
6 I Love the Woman (Myles, Nathan) 2:51
7 San-Ho-Zay (King, Thompson) 2:39
8 See See Baby (King, Thompson) 2:17
9 Sen-Sa-Shun (King, Thompson) 2:53
10 Lonesome Whistle Blues (Moore, Teat, Toombs) 2:51
11 The Stumble (King, Thompson) 3:14
12 It’s Too Bad (Things Are Going So Tough) (King) 3:09
13 In the Open (King, Thompson) 3:08
14 I’m Tore Down (Thompson) 2:39
15 High Rise Bridge, (King, Thompson) 3:04
16 Someday After Awhile (You’ll Be Sorry) (King, Thompson) 2:49
17 Remington Ride (Penny, Remington) 5:49
18 My Feeling for the Blues (King, Ousley) 2:10
19 Palace of the King (Dunn, Nix, Russell) 3:40
20 Going Down (Nix)
King went on to influence the likes of Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Lonnie Mack, among many others. Throughout the early 60′s he turned out a series of singles, including “San-Ho-Zay,” “The Stumble,” and “I’m Tore Down”, which became blues classics; everyone from Magic Sam and Stevie Ray Vaughan to Dave Edmunds and Peter Green covered King’s material. Eric Clapton made King’s Hideaway his feature tune in 1965. Although he died too young, his influence can still be heard in blues and rock guitarists decades after his death.
This is the first item in my Starter Kit. I will continue to update this list over the next few weeks, so check back.