Q&A with unstoppable bluesman Little Freddie King (aka Dr. Bones), one of the last Bluesmen of his generation

"The Blues express clarity, honesty, and simplicity. It’s been my experience that white folks also have the blues. They seem to support my music because they understand the hardship we have experienced. The black folks don’t want to be reminded about trials and tribulations of the past. The young people want to partake in the finer things in life and move on with their materialistic voyage."

Little Freddie King: Dr. Blues Medicine

ONE OF THE LAST BLUESMEN OF HIS GENERATION: The unstoppable Little Freddie King (aka Dr. Bones) has certainly paid his dues. The past 82 years he has survived three shootings, stabbings, a near fatal bike accident that pressed his spine, a stomach ulcer doctors believed would kill him, an accidental electrocution, the hurricane that ripped New Orleans apart in 2005, and now a pandemic. On his voice you can feel the trials of life. The music inside his new album is the dose of "BLUES MEDICINE" (by MadeWright Records, 2022) that kept him going. King is a country-style blues musician, links to an era when live music poured from the back-of-town nightclubs that were ubiquitous throughout New Orleans’ African American neighborhoods, fostering a musical subculture of downhome Mississippi blues that developed from the ground up in New Orleans. Artist who is among the last of his kind. This album proves it.

(Little Freddie King aka Dr. Bones / Photo by Chris Granger)

Born in McComb, Mississippi in 1940, Fread E. Martin grew up playing alongside his blues guitar-picking father (Jessie James Martin), then rode the rails to New Orleans during the early fifties where he crossed paths with itinerant South Louisiana blues man such as "Poka- 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 immoralized in song), he jammed and gigged with Bo Diddley and John Lee Hooker, and also played bass for Freddy King during one of the guitarist's stints in New Orleans. People began comparing the two musicians' styles, hence Martin's nome-de-plume. While well-vested 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 if fitting, as Freddie is undeniably the monarch of the Crescent City blues scene.

Interview by Michael Limnios

Special Thanks: Little Freddie King & “Wacko” Wade Wright

How has the Afro-American music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

“Afro” doesn’t apply to me; I am a black American born and raised in the United States of America. I thank God every day that I have all the opportunities to better myself so that I am respected in my community. I turn off all the craziness of the world and I am shocked at the idea people don’t know the difference between right and wrong. 

What characterize your music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I have no “philosophy”. I don’t even know what the word means. Wacko has to explain it to me. My 82yrs of hard work, chasing woman, being an alcoholic at an early age and fighting have given me material to think about over the years which provide ideas for developing a song here or there. Whenever a bolt of lightning strikes my brain. Being raised on a share choppers farm, working from sunup to sundown 6 days a week. Getting up at 4am to start the day helping my father pick cotton, until it was time to walk to school several miles away. I used to work 4 hours in the morning on school days. What characterizes my music? The tuff experiences in life that I have come to know.

"Best advice was given to me by my father who told me “Bud, (he uses to call me that) don’t kick an ant hill” because you will stir up a lot of trouble. The other gem was “Let a dead dog lie”. Meaning its best to leave a situation as it is if disturbing it might cause trouble." (Little Freddie King, New Orleans 1978 / Photo by Robert Sacre)

Why do you think that the NOLA music continues to generate such a devoted following?

I don’t know, its just makes you feel good the combinations of style that have developed over the years by varies cultures. It’s like our special disk called “Creole Gumbo”, it’s a mixture of ingredients that heal the soul and relaxes the stress one feels. New Orleans music joyful and is like a dose of medicine, it cure whatever is aching you.

Are there any specific memories or highlights of your career that you would like to tell us about?!

Being a Charter Member and performing at the first New Orleans Jazz Festival in 1970 and still performing every year at the fess. Releasing my the first electric blues LP “Rock n Roll Blues” on Ahura Mazda Records Label in 1970. Meeting the “Queen Bee” - Beyonce and appearing in her video “Lemonade”. 

Have my song “Bus Station Blues” 2003 “live” version taken from the French Quarter Festival added to the Library of Congress archive. Song best represents “New Orleans Blues”. Being admitted to the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2014 was a surprise. Having a “Mississippi Trail Marker” placed in Mc Comb, Mississippi my place of birth. There are many more I am sure, but I don’t want to bore you. 

What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Meeting “Wacko” Wade Wright (they call him Wacko for his drumming) and developing a friendship that has pushed me to develop my talent and music. We been together 29 years and that is when the World opened to me. Visiting the different city around the world and performing and having folks like my music. The highlight.

Best advice was given to me by my father who told me “Bud, (he uses to call me that) don’t kick an ant hill” because you will stir up a lot of trouble. The other gem was “Let a dead dog lie”. Meaning its best to leave a situation as it is if disturbing it might cause trouble.

"I don’t know, its just makes you feel good the combinations of style that have developed over the years by varies cultures. It’s like our special disk called “Creole Gumbo”, it’s a mixture of ingredients that heal the soul and relaxes the stress one feels. New Orleans music joyful and is like a dose of medicine, it cure whatever is aching you." (Little Freddie King & “Wacko” Wade Wright / Photo by Christopher Briscoe)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Going over to friends’ house, like “Boogie Bill” Webb, “Polka Dot” Slim and Alzo Youngblood and Guitar Grady house, sitting on the front porch and drink “corn liquor” we made and playing our asses off till the chicken’s crow. My personal fear is that the new generation is rubbing out the character and deep feelings blues music presented in the early days. The electronic gizmos are causing the blues music to become sterile.

What is the impact of Blues on the racial and socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

The Blues express clarity, honesty, and simplicity. It’s been my experience that white folks also have the blues. They seem to support my music because they understand the hardship we have experienced. The black folks don’t want to be reminded about trials and tribulations of the past. The young people want to partake in the finer things in life and move on with their materialistic voyage.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Nothing is gained by “slacking off”. You got to work for it, and if you work hard, you will be rewarded down the road. Just use me as an example. Another thing, don’t use UPS for delivery, they break things.

Little Freddie King - Home

(Little Freddie King / Photo by Christopher Briscoe)

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