Unnamed vocalists perfectly evoke a lonely late night train whistle on Freddy King’s mournfully swinging “Lonesome Whistle Blues”:
This song was catchy enough (#8 R&B) to cross over into the Pop Top 100 (#88) when released in April of 1961 on Federal, a subsidiary of King Records.
“Lonesome Whistle Blues” was recorded on January 17, 1961 in Cincinnati using local talent: Phillip Paul (who still plays Saturdays with his jazz trio at The Cincinnatian Hotel) on drums, along with Sonny Thompson on piano, Bill Willis on bass, and (of course) Freddy on lead vocal and guitar.
Freddy or Freddie? Not sure even his mother knows
“Lonesome Whistle Blues” would end up being included on 1961 LP, Freddy King Sings. 1962 album, Freddy King Goes Surfin’, however, would inspire a rather funny set of comments from the fine folks at Sundazed/Rhino when reissued on vinyl in 2013:
“Syd Nathan, impresario of Cincinatti’s [sic] King Records, was the epitome of the old-school indie record label owner. Always hustling, Nathan regularly beat the odds to release hit after hit in multiple genres. He’d try anything if he thought it might work, or more precisely, if he thought it would make money. After Chess Records turned down guitarist/vocalist Freddy King several times for sounding too much like B.B, King, Nathan thought that sound might actually be sellable and took a chance, signing Freddy to his Federal subsidiary label. They hit paydirt with an instrumental titled “Hide Away,” which reached #5 on the R&B Chart and #29 on the Pop Singles Chart.
“Encouraged by the single’s success, Nathan released a full album of King’s instrumentals, Let’s Hide Away and Dance Away with Freddy King. (See what Nathan did there with the title, slipping in a reference to Freddy’s big hit single? Always be closing, my friends, always be closing.) The album sold well and helped make Freddy a bankable touring act. While others would have been satisfied to move on to the next project, Syd sensed untapped potential in the LP.
“Meanwhile, several artists on the West Coast were making noise in the brand new surf music scene (and by “making noise,” I mean selling records). Syd didn’t have any surf music artists under contract, but he DID have Freddy King. Surely, Syd surmised, if the kid’s went nuts for Dick Dale’s guitar instrumental workouts, they could do the same for Freddy’s. All he needed was a little marketing magic…GET A NEW COVER WITH SOME SURF KIDS! THROW SOME CROWD NOISE OVER TRACKS SO IT SOUNDS ‘LIVE’! CALL IT…ERR…FREDDY KING GOES SURFIN’! PRESS IT AND HAVE IT ON THE SHELVES BY NEXT WEEK!!!