Mother of Blues Legend Freddie King Honored
by MARY L. KIRBY
Jul 06, 2014 | 1514 views | 0 0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mirror Photo / Mary Laschinger Kirby<br>
BENNY TURNER pauses by the new marker he had installed at the East Springfield Cemetery at his mother, Ella Mae King Turner's, grave. Beside her is Uncle Leon King, whose marker was misspelled but the family placed it anyway. Both Kings taught the Blues great Freddie King how to play the guitar, and he in turn taught his half-brother, Benny Turner.
Mirror Photo / Mary Laschinger Kirby
BENNY TURNER pauses by the new marker he had installed at the East Springfield Cemetery at his mother, Ella Mae King Turner's, grave. Beside her is Uncle Leon King, whose marker was misspelled but the family placed it anyway. Both Kings taught the Blues great Freddie King how to play the guitar, and he in turn taught his half-brother, Benny Turner.
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“Now that my mother’s grave has a marker, I can write my book,” Benny Turner said before he left Gilmer on his second trip home this year. Ella Mae King Turner was the matriarch to two professional blues musicians, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Freddie King and his half-brother and New Orleans resident Benny Turner.

In February, as a pilgrim visiting the place of his roots, he found his mother’s grave at the East Springfield Church next to his uncle Leon King’s military-style marker. The two Kings, brother and sister, taught Freddie how to play the guitar. He took their “Country Blues” style to Chicago, where he sat in with Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, and other great South Chicago blues singers and developed his own unique blues riffs and style.

Freddie King then went on to influence Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton and others. He was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. Turner played a bass guitar in his half-brother’s band, one of the first integrated blues bands.

Benny and his manager, Sallie Bangtson, visited the area Monday to Wednesday, watching the installation of the marker which names all of Ella Mae’s nine children on the reverse side, and includes the line: “She made a difference.”

Turner is working on a new album, which will include songs reflecting all his influences, including his mother’s style of playing, his uncle Leon’s, and Freddie’s. Tentatively the new album is called Journey. It began before Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 and is finally reaching completion. At the same time, Ms. Bangtson is interviewing Turner for an “as told to” account of his life with Freddie King and as a blues musician around the world ever since.
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