Porky Freeman

Talented country guitarist who became one of the first musicians to feature boogie woogie style guitar music.
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Artist Biography

b. Quilla Hugh Freeman, 29 June 1916, near Vera Cruz, Missouri, USA. The Freeman’s, who eked a living from a small farm, were a musical family and Quilla began playing piano, fife, ocarina and harmonica as a young child. In 1928, he added banjo and trumpet and played in the school band, soon adding fiddle, mandolin and, his main instrument, guitar to the list. In 1931, he dropped out of school and hoboed around for a time before forming a quartet that played on a Jefferson City station. In 1933, he returned home and became a member of a trio, Raul Hatfield And His Ava Wildcats, on KGBX Springfield, Missouri, where he made his first recordings. After again deciding to return home to complete his education, he performed locally. In 1937, he worked on KWTO Springfield sometimes as member of the Brownlow Boys and sometimes with Otie and Sue Thompson, who gave him the nickname of Porky. He later played guitar and trumpet with Doc James and toured with the Weaver Brothers before playing with Bill Boyd and Roy Newman in Fort Worth, Texas.

In 1942, he returned to KGBX Springfield, where he became a regular on the Slim Wilson Show before playing with Bill Nicholls in Los Angeles. During this time he had become one of the first musicians to feature boogie woogie style guitar music and in 1943, he recorded ‘Porky’s Boogie Woogie On The Strings’ for the Morris Lee label, which became the first country boogie instrumental. It proved popular and in 1944, he was given a contract with ARA, where he recorded as the Porky Freeman Trio. He played on Jack Guthrie’s hit recording of ‘Oklahoma Hills’ and his reputation saw him play and tour with numerous top acts including the Sons Of The Pioneers, Spade Cooley, Hank Penny, Jimmy Wakely and Stuart Hamblen and many others. He was also much in demand as a session musician. In September 1945, the Porky Freeman Trio, which comprised Merle Travis, Tommy Sergeant and Alan Barker, recorded two versions of ‘Boogie Woogie Boy’. Freeman played lead guitar and Travis added the vocal. The first take was released on ARA and the second with a variation on the lyrics later on 4 Star Records. That Porky was used as lead guitarist when Travis was on the recordings emphasizes the instrumental brilliance of Freeman.

Throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s, he played and/or recorded with many popular acts in the Los Angeles area. Freeman, who retired to make his home in West Hollywood, continued to perform locally into the late 80s. In 1987, the German Cattle label released an album of 21 of Freeman’s 40s recordings, including a version of the instrumental that started his recording career. The recordings with Travis were included in a 5-CD set of Merle Travis’ work by Bear Family Records in 1994.