We’re back from vacation with an authentic giant, in every sense of the word, the most visceral blues ever created and which, in case you hadn’t guessed yet, it’s the only blues we like. And we like Freddie King... a lot. There are many guitarists from the 60s who took him as their unknown teacher, starting with Mr. Eric Clapton, followed by his mate Jeff Beck, two of the most famous examples. So if you were thinking that Freddy King wasn’t very influential in your way of playing, it’s more than likely that he was.
What is stranger to see nowadays is a blues guitarist playing with picks on their fingers, specifically on the thumb where he used a plastic one, and the index finger where he wore a metal one that added a special flavour to all the sounds he could squeeze from his guitars.
And it is precisely these guitars that we wish to talk about in this piece. Throughout the years there have been many occasions when we talk about the bluesmen from the 60s, specifically two of the kings, Mr. B.B. King, and today’s protagonist with the same artistic surname, we have found that in the popular subconsciousness we think of the Gibson ES-335 as the guitar of reference for both these gents, but we can confirm that although we have no doubts that this model was played by both, it wasn’t their most common pick, but rather it is really the Gibson ES-345 which truly marked their careers. Perhaps you’ve never had the chance to play a 345 or 335, but, for the uninitiated, apart from the different look between both guitars, there is a different essential tone that should be highlighted here. Of course both models have been fitted with similar or the same pickups for decades and we are talking about very similar semi-hollow body guitars, but the 345 has an added ‘varitone’ tone control knob with which we can change the tone of our signal 5 different ways, besides the ‘true bypass’ position. We should also mention that there are series 335 models with this varitone feature, but it’s not the most common with the 335 by far, which can be the reason they get confused.
At any rate, it is that tone control knob we can see in Freddie King’s guitar in most of the live pictures of him, although it is true that in his beginnings he most likely began recording with a Gibson Les Paul Goldtop from 1954 as shown on the covers of his first albums.
Regarding this blues animal’s sound and tone itself, it’s convenient to say that he liked to break the sound of his Fender amps by putting the volume very high, and especially the treble controls. I think that with this setup, it doesn’t matter if he used a Quad Reverb, a Dual Showman or a Twin Reverb; the thing was to crunch that sound cleanly, however possible...the rest was up to this Texan who left us too early but still makes our hair stand on end thanks to his incredible passion for playing good blues, the kind that ‘blows your mind’, the only kind we like.