Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Freddie Fingers Lee - He's A Nut

Born Frederick John Cheesman, circa 1940, Newcastle-on-Tyne
Freddie Fingers Lee is a legend in the rock 'n' roll world. He stands up there with Crazy Cavan as one the most beloved purveyors of good time rocking. They both have gained their following thanks to decades of playing the way their heart leads them, as well as being spiritual rockers, at one with their followers. You couldn't imagine him coming off stage after a wild show and putting on a pin stripe suit on and heading to the nearest lap-top to check his stocks and shares. More likely to head straight to the bar with an ear cocked towards the stage or jukebox. His sound is melodic, straight ahead piano rock 'n' roll without frills. The song Boogie Woogie Fred tells you just about everything you need to know about him. Autobiographical in the same was a Jerry lee did in Lewis Boogie, it's a bopper which highlights his more than capable vocals and fine piano playing. Or you could try I'm A Nut, which is no doubt just as close to home!! A wild show man I've seen him play the piano with a knife and fork, in tune! If I remember write, he also stars in the Blue Suede Shows film alongside Hollywoods finest Kevin Carey, where Freddie takes to the piano with an axe. As show-stopping as these type of histrionics are, what impresses me most though is his voice.
Born Fred Cheesman in Newcastle he started in a skiffle group but was forever changed when he heard Jerry's Lee's anthem, Whole Lot Of Shakin' Goin' On. He took up the piano and ended up playing the 88's as Freddie 'Fingers' Lee, in a band that at that time included a young Ritchie Blackmore on guitar. He worked briefly with Eden Kane, Sir Cliff and the maker of horny daughters, Marty Wilde. He hooked up again with Sutch and they made their way to the lively scene at Hamburg, where Freddie soon landed a spot in the Star Club house band. Here he plied his trade with Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, The Crickets, Gene Vincent and Sam Cooke among countless others.

He turned up on our tv screens in the late 70's when "Oh Boy" was revamped with Freddie, Shaky, Les Gray and others making a big impression right across Europe. It's on the Continent where he has made his biggest impression and still plays the festivals over there, complete with his legendary cowboy hat and eye-patch attire. The patch is no Johnny Kidd tribute thing though, he actually only has one eye.

His cover versions of things like Break Up and Down On The Farm are high quality and he and the band (he always works with the best in the business) always treat the originals with respect, giving them a new lease of life. He's a pretty good country singer as well, have a listen to So Long for proof.
A best of would have to include One Eyed Boogie Boy, Pondering and Wondering, Dib Dab Boogie, Frantic, the Cajunesque Rockin' At My House and Run Down Feelin' Blue (brilliant piano)*. If you're mistaken that he's just a jumped up clown, play Two Boiled Eggs and get one of them on your face - this boy can play. Who can forget those immortal words, "Roll me around with Eileen Dover". Sadly, ill health has ended his career, but his legend will live on. Rock on Fred.

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