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Thursday, April 25, 2013

End of the Blues - Freddie Roulette

Frederick Martin "Freddie" Roulette (born May 3, 1939) is an American electric blues lap steel guitarist and singer. He is best known as an exponent of the lap steel guitar. In a lengthy career, he has collaborated with Earl Hooker, Charlie Musselwhite, Henry Kaiser, and Harvey Mandel, and released several solo albums. Roulette, whose family came from New Orleans, was born and raised in Evanston, Illinois, and learned to play steel guitar in high school. He started playing in clubs in Chicago in his teens, and in 1965 began work in Earl Hooker's backing band, continuing to tour and perform with him until 1969. That band, with pianist Pinetop Perkins, harmonica player Carey Bell, vocalist Andrew Odom, and Roulette, was "widely acclaimed" and "considered as one of the best Earl had ever carried with him". Roulette participated on several of Hooker's singles, his 1967 album, The Genius of Earl Hooker, and the 1969 follow-up, Two Bugs and a Roach. He developed a friendship with Charlie Musselwhite, and recorded with him (credited as Fred Roulette) on the 1969 band album Chicago Blue Stars. He then toured with Musselwhite, and backed him on the albums Tennessee Woman and Memphis, Tennessee, before relocating to the San Francisco, California, area where he has lived ever since. When there, he played in a band with Luther Tucker, and recorded with Earl Hooker's cousin, John Lee Hooker. In 1973, Roulette released his debut solo album, Sweet Funky Steel, which was produced by his fellow guitarist, Harvey Mandel. Don "Sugarcane" Harris also played on several tracks. Over the next twenty years, he continued to perform with other musicians and occasionally led his own band, while also working full-time as an apartment manager. The 1996 album, Psychedelic Guitar Circus, saw him work in a group format with Mandel, Kaiser and Steve Kimock. His solo 1997 album, Back in Chicago: Jammin' with Willie Kent and the Gents, had Roulette recording with both Willie Kent and Chico Banks. The album won the Living Blues magazine award as Best Blues Album of 1997. Following that album's success, Roulette began performing widely at blues festivals, and followed it up with the 1998 album Spirit of Steel, featuring The Holmes Brothers and produced by Kaiser, as well as contributing to Kaiser's own album Yo Miles, a tribute to Miles Davis. Roulette's solo album, Man of Steel (2006), incorporated guitar playing contributions from Will Bernard and David Lindley, as well as guitar and production duties from Kaiser. It was recorded in Fantasy Studios, in Berkeley, California, and included strains of jazz, country, soul and reggae in the overall blues setting. In the same year, Roulette played locally in a small combo including Mike Hinton. Roulette has played at a number of outdoor events over the years, including the Long Beach Blues Festival, the San Francisco Blues Festival (1979), and the Calgary Folk Music Festival (2000). He has also continued to play club dates in the San Francisco area, often with Harvey Mandel. In 2012, Jammin' With Friends was recorded at three separate studios with various musicians. It was produced by Michael Borbridge, who also played drums on all the tracks.  

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