Kim "Fest Junkie" Welsh
Fred Eugene Martin was born in McComb, Mississippi seventy years ago and he celebrated his birthday with a packed house of blues lovers recently at B.J.’s Lounge, a ramshackle corner bar room buried in the Bywater bowels of the upper Ninth Ward. In his canary yellow shirt, black vest, and snakeskin jacket, he played for a standing room only crowd who like their blues rough hewn and straight from the heart.
Nearly 50 years ago, with a little courage from Muscat wine, he threw his clothes in a 50-pound flour sack, jumped on a train, and headed for New Orleans. A popular bluesman in Europe and just returning from Switzerland, this hard-living character took the nom-de-plume Little Freddie King in the late ’60s due to similarities to Freddie King and has been playing the blues in the Crescent City for almost half a century. King spent his first three decades in New Orleans literally soaking up more life and near death—shootings and stabbings (by his wife, among others,) jail sentences, drinking, all night rambling and plenty of hard work—than most folks who make it to the age of seventy. He has jammed with his cousin, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bo Diddley, Freddie King, Harmonica Williams, Babe Stovall, Slim Harpo, Champion Jack Dupre, and John Lee Hooker, honed his guitar style and dodged bullets behind the juke box at the notorious Bucket of Blood and Dew Drop Inn jukes, and has played Jazz Fest for 33 consecutive years.
After Katrina, King was exiled to Texas and really missed playing the blues here. Gibson Guitar and Music Maker Relief Foundation sent him a new “Lucille” model guitar, Sweet Home New Orleans brought him home, and Habitat for Humanity supplied a new residence in the Musician’s Village. He feels inspired and blessed to be back home.
Manager and drummer “Wacko” Wade Wright, Vox bassist Anthony “Skeet” Anderson, and Bobby Lewis on harp have been accompanying Little Freddie since 1996. “Big Freddie” Brink also joined the band playing his crashing gong and loose women. Little Freddie’s soulful demonstration of raw power and his unique hard, cutting edge approach to rural electric gut-bucket blues made for a magical evening.
His 70th birthday set list included:
Gotta Walk with da KING | King's Shuffle | Mean Little Women | I Use to Be Down
Train Wreck | Chicken Dance | Crack Head Joe | You Don’t Know What I Know
Warm wishes, “Fest Junkie”