Blues legend Freddie King, who went by “Freddy” until about 1966 (and who was not related to fellow blues legends B.B. King or Albert King), died on December 28, 1976, when I was 87 days old. He was 42 years and 116 days old. As of today, I am 42 years and 126 days old. I am older than Freddie King got to be and that’s really weird.
Freddie King fit a legendary career into his 42 years. I’m just kind of beginning mine. Thankfully, I have no designs on becoming legendary, so that pressure is off. My lifestyle is also considerably healthier than his. I mean, I love me a good, spicy Bloody Mary, but I don’t consume them for sustenance or as a time-saving life hack, like he did.
Nevertheless, knowing that I’ve lived longer than Freddie King is a real trip. And it gets me to thinking.
Who Is on the Receiving End of That Side-Eye?
In 1971, Freddie King released an album called Getting Ready. Certainly more rock than blues, but it’s fucking great! It’s got “Going Down” on it. It’s got players and contributors like Donald “Duck” Dunn and Leon Russell on it. And it’s got a cool cover.
Ol’ Freddie (actually just 36 in this depiction) is shown on the left side of the sorta sepia-toned cover, cigarette dangling from his no doubt Bloody Mary-stained lips. He is sporting ‘70s sideburns, a nice pinstripe button-up shirt and what appear to be mom jeans. The shot is an action shot, too: Freddie is plugged in to his Gibson ES-355, and he is shown attaching his strap to the end button on the axe’s body.
He is also giving someone out of frame some serious side-eye. Raised eyebrow and everything. Hmm.
There’s that photo, but there’s also the experience of the person Freddie was looking at when the picture was captured. What is that person’s deal? Where does that person rank Getting Ready on their list of the best albums? Is this individual still in their body? Is that person the aforementioned Donald “Duck” Dunn or Leon Russell? Someone unnamed and unknown? Am I just misinterpreting the look?
I love Freddie King and I love this album.
I also love telling myself that I am not ready.
Like Freddie King, I am getting ready, despite all the evidence showing how I am actually already ready. Things are happening. I am noticing myself not feeling ready for them to happen. And yet they keep happening. I don’t want to stop them from happening; these things that are happening are things I want to happen. So I guess my strategy should be to get used to not feeling ready, right?
Getting Used to Not Feeling Ready is not a very catchy album title. But it’s the appropriate one for my equivalent of the 1971 Freddie King release (in case you’re wondering, my equivalent album title for the follow-up release would be Wisconsin Cheeseball). But really, it’s about gratitude for me. I will never feel ready. I realize that. But I can feel grateful for the opportunities that are cropping up for me. So I’m getting gratitude as I get used to not feeling ready.
And I’m grateful for this feeling of not feeling ready. Clearly, it’s a feeling that happens when good things are going on in my life. It’s the discomfort of growth and transcendence.
I want to play lots of shows and make lots of music. But I found myself feeling hesitant about accepting opportunities to do just that. I wasn’t feeling ready. Fortunately, that did not stop me from accepting those opportunities.
I’m starting to think that my opinion of my own readiness is kind of meaningless, anyway. As it turns out, I am not the foremost authority about myself and my abilities. I really should defer to others sometimes. Otherwise, I’m just going to sabotage myself and my musical objectives.
The Time Freddie Never Got
Freddie King never got to experience what it feels like to live and make music past the age of 42 years and 116 days. But here I am, 10 whole days deep into just that kind of existence.
I booked a bunch of new shows today, even though I don’t feel ready. I am working on recordings of my original music, even though I don’t feel ready. I am playing my songs for people, even though I don’t think they are ready. Stuff like that.
I am going to try to stop thinking of my life and music in terms of readiness. I’m going to really try to knock it off. I am just going to keep doing my thing. If someone wants to give me an opportunity, I will notice the feeling of unreadiness. Then I will set it aside and focus on the feeling of gratitude.
We all die. Some of us get to live longer than Freddie King. We are here because we are ready.
By the way, do you think the album title Getting Ready has any real meaning? Or are you like me and think it has everything to do with the fact that “ready” rhymes with “Freddie”? Maybe the person on the receiving end of the side-eye will read this and enlighten me. We’ll see.