Freddie Spruell, also known as Papa Freddie or Mr. Freddie, is considered the first bluesman to record the Delta Blues style, or one of the first to record this style, and one of the first to record, as a soloist, guitar and voice.
As usual, there are not many details about his life and some of them are not 100 % reliable. Supposedly born in the town of Lake Providence, Louisiana, in 1893, or at least that what his Social Security records said. When still a child his family moved to Chicago, although it seems that the little Freddie brought in his head, perhaps without being very conscious about it, the sounds that were heard by that area of Mississippi where he was born, since he made the Delta Blues Mississippi style from Chicago.
In this town was where on June 25, 1926 he recorded his first song, Milk Cow Blues, and later in November would record the theme Muddy Water Blues and Way Back Down Home, all with Okeh Records under the name of Papa Freddie.
Milk Cow Blues, written by Kokomo Arnold, it will probably be familiar for many people, since apart from the original version of Kokomo Arnold, and the Papa Freddie’s version, Robert Johnson also made his version under the name Milkcow’s Calf Blues, which appeared as the B-side to Malted Milk. Although it may be familiar perhaps by later versions of Johnnie Lee Wills (Milkcow Blues) in 1941, Elvis Presley & The Blue Moon Boys (Milk Cow Blues Boogie) in 1955, or Eddie Cochran, Mike Seeger, The Kinks, The Chocolate Watchband, We Five, Aerosmith, Jerry Lee Lewis, Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, … among others.
In 1928 he recorded the songs Tom Cat Blues and Low-down Mississippi Bottom Man, with Paramount Records, who credited him as Mr. Freddie Spruell.
In 1935 he record again, this time with the Bluebird Records label with the name Mr. Freddie, five songs, 4A Highway, Mr. Freddie’s Kokomo Blues, Don’t Cry Baby, Your Good Man is Gone, and Let’s Go Riding in which Carl Martin played second guitar.
Those were the last songs recorded by the bluesman, because in the mid-40s, it is said that he moved away from the blues when his mother asked him to become a preacher, so that he would not play the blues anymore, what a things! It is believed he died in 1956 at the age of 62 in Chicago, after a long stay in hospital, although there is no certificate to confirm this.
Here you are some examples of his domain expertise of the Delta Blues style.
Milk Cow Blues, 1926.
Muddy Water Blues, 1926.
Let’s Go Riding, 1935.