Little Freddie King’s October calendar is packed.
Because the 81-year-old bluesman has so many gigs, his drummer and manager, “Wacko” Wade Wright, is worried about overdoing it.
“Freddie ain’t no spring chicken,” the 77-year-old Wright said. “We just got another gig today. We go a year without playing (due to the pandemic) and then, all of a sudden, we get seven gigs in one month.”
King, a Mississippi native who hopped a train to New Orleans when he was 14 and has lived mostly there ever since, is thankful he’s getting more music work.
“Yes, indeed,” he said. “I’m telling you, I really missed it a whole lot.”
While most of his gigs are in New Orleans, King and his band are driving up to Baton Rouge for a Wednesday show at Red Stick Social.
During the pandemic, King’s lost gigs included lucrative appearances at major festivals in New York and Florida. A year passed before he began a limited schedule that included duo shows with Wright.
In 2020, King stayed on the music radar via two new albums, “Jaw Jackin’ Blues” and, released by the Paris-based vinyl label Newvelle, “Going Upstairs.” He coped with his pandemic downtime by riding the bicycle he affectionately calls his two-wheel Cadillac and repairing and restoring guitars.
King has much experience fixing things, having worked day jobs repairing TVs, radios and computers and rebuilding alternators, starters and generators. He was doing the latter work and performing only once a year at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival when he met Wright in 1993.
“I used to get my car fixed where Freddie worked,” Wright recalled. “I went there and he said, ‘I know you play drums.’ I said, ‘I play with a big R&B band.’ I played with Frankie Ford, Freddy Fender, Skip Easterling, all those guys.”
King told Wright he needed a drummer to play Jazz Fest.
“I looked at Freddie and he was full of grease,” Wright recalled. “I said, ‘Dude, you sure you play guitar?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I can play guitar.’ I said, ‘I’ll come back tomorrow and listen to what you can do.’ I met Freddie the next evening at the shop. He pulled out his guitar and started playing. I said, ‘Dude, you got a drummer. What time do I report?’ ”
King’s authenticity and expressiveness impressed Wright.
“He makes the guitar talk and cry,” Wright said. “And back in ’93, when Freddie’s hands were really limber, he rolled. At 81, he’s stiffened up a little, but it’s still the blues.”
A serious bicycle accident King suffered in 2017 impacted his guitar playing. Flipping over his handlebars, the then 77-year-old musician landed on his head, injuring his neck and spine. On the sixth day of the resulting hospital stay, he thanked friends and fans for their prayers. His Facebook note included an indictment of New Orleans streets.
“I will be afraid to get on my two-wheel Cadillac after that slap down,” he wrote. “The streets of New Orleans are NOT SAFE for bike riding … Be safe bikers. This ain’t California.”
The bike accident left two fingers on King’s fretting hand numb.
“I had to learn how to use my fingers all over again,” he said. “A lot of times I can’t make the notes like I used to make them. So, I had to make a different polarity on the fretboard and the strings.”
As highlighted in a recent feature story in The Guardian, King escaped death many times during his rough-and-tumble times. A stormy night under a Baton Rouge club’s sketchy roof can be added to the shootings, stabbings, electrocution, flood, bicycle accident and pandemic that imperiled him. The club’s owner insisted the show must go on.
“We was standing up on the stage and the rain was coming down on us,” King remembered. “I said, ‘Man, you got to cancel this!’ He said, ‘No, no! Don’t cancel it.’ I said, ‘It’s raining on us. We’re going to get electrocuted!’ He said, ‘Uh-uh. Just go ahead on. Keep on playing, just like it ain’t raining.’ ”
Despite the club’s roof with a view, King lived to play another day.
“I’ve been dead a lot of times,” he said. “But the good Lord is good, he pulled me back from the dead and brought me back alive."
Blues Night with the Little Freddie King Band
7 p.m. Wednesday
Red Stick Social, 1503 Government St.
$10 (at eventbrite.com)