Freddie Roulette is one of the very few Blues musicians who has made the lap-steel guitar their instrument of choice. From his early classic albums with Earl Hooker and his work with some legendary Chicago characters, through an enduring friendship with Charlie Musselwhite to a long career on the West-coast, Freddie always brings a heart full of Blues to his virtuoso playing. His slide techniques and obscure tunings make his sound unique and impossible to replicate, and this master craftsman of the Blues continues to give his delicate touches to the music in his solo work and with his band Daphne Blue.
Born in 1939 in Evanston, Illinois to a family recently arrived from New Orleans, Frederick Martin Roulette learned to play the steel guitar in High-school. In the 50s, the sweeping sound of steel guitar was usually heard only in Country and Western music, but even as a teenager Freddie was attracted across town to play on Chicago
‘s South-side Blues scene. In 1965, the supreme guitarist Earl Hooker formed a band with Pinetop Perkins
on piano, the huge voice of Andrew Odom
and Carey Bell
on harp, and he invited Freddie to join them. Their album ‘The Genius of Earl Hooker’ came out in 1967 and the follow-up ‘Two Bugs and a Roach’, is acknowledged as one of the best Blues albums of the time. Sadly, Earl passed away early in 1970, but by then Freddie had also featured on Charlie Musselwhite’s ‘Chicago Blue Stars’ album, which began their long friendship. Soon Freddie followed his friend in relocating to California, as part of John Lee Hooker
‘s ‘Coast to Coast Band’, travelling in an old hearse with John Lee’s phone number painted on the side, alongside Johnny ‘Big Moose’ Walker
! Freddie and Charlie played and recorded together many times over the years, with the ‘Memphis Tennessee’ album perhaps their finest partnership.
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Fred plays an old Albert King tune with Pinetop Perkins and Ray Bron, from their ‘Honeydews of Electric Blues’ album.
Freddie and Ray do battle in a lap-steel/slide face off.
‘Sweet Funky Steel’ was Freddie’s debut solo album in 1973, and it was produced by Harvey Mandel
who also contributed his playing, alongside Don ‘Sugarcane’ Harris
. It was a solid piece of work, but wasn’t a great commercial success, so Freddie settled into a full-time job outside music for a couple of decades, while playing with his own band around San Francisco, and guesting at other people’s gigs. Teaming up with the 14-year-old slide-guitarist Ray Bronner, and some veterans from Chicago in the band Daphne Blue, Freddie was often joined by ‘Big Moose’, ‘Pinetop’ and Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown
at gigs and on record. He was then inspired to travel back to his birthplace to cut an album with big-voiced bassist Willie Kent
and his Gents, which appeared as ‘Back in Chicago, Jammin’…’ in 1997. Blues Awards and invitations from many Festival organisers revitalised Freddie’s career, and another album ‘Spirit of Steel’ was released in 1999, later joined by ‘Man of Steel’.
Delicate and soulful steel-work on ‘End of the Blues’;
Freddie Roulette Discography
This is Blues like you’ve never heard it before. Freddie makes the ‘Hawaiian’ guitar sound like it was created just to play the Blues.
BACK IN CHICAGO, JAMMIN’…
Freddie still plays with the San Francisco based ‘Daphne Blue’, with Blue Ray Bronner and ‘Little Wolf’, they issued an album ‘End of the Blues’, following up with ”Black White and Blue’ in 2007. Freddie has also released an album, ‘Daphne Blue: Legendary Blues Instrumentals’ which contains 15 excellent tracks for an amazingly low price, which he considers to be among his finest works. These days, Freddie mainly plays gigs and Festivals around California, and his solo album ‘Jammin’ with Friends’, which came out in 2012, shows that his playing has lost none of its individualistic tone or lyricism.