Most people rarely, if ever, see Freddie Vanderford without his sunglasses. Whether he is on stage or getting his morning paper, he is wearing his shades; shades that cover the windows to his soul.
Behind those sunglasses is the soul of a man who – at age 16 – drove to the middle of nowhere to find legendary blues harmonica player Peg Leg Sam. Freddie found the house, which was hidden away in Jonesville, South Carolina, but he was met at the door by Peg’s brother who announced the blues man had a gig and would not be home until later that night. Of course, teenager Freddie went home and awaited the trek he would have to make. The night was dark, the air was eerie, and Freddie had second thoughts about how he may be welcomed at Peg’s home. That night marked the beginning of an apprenticeship with Peg Leg Sam and included trips to the liquor store, some harmonica playing and a lesson in what the Blues are really about — from a master to an apprentice.
Behind Freddie’s sunglasses is the soul of a man who has led the life of a lifetime musician. He has left buckets of sweat on every stage he has been on – consistently – for 40 years. In 1979, Freddie and his bandmates made a 2,200 mile trip from Boise, Idaho, to Spartanburg, South Carolina, which they referred to as the “torture tour.” While the crew rode in the cab of the Ryder truck they were traveling in, Freddie and the other members of the band rode in the back – sliding and rolling around with the band’s gear – with only a small strip of light shining from beneath the metal door. When that door finally opened in Spartanburg, a group reminiscent of boxcar hobos stepped down. Their faces were black, their hair was grungy, and they were carrying a 5-gallon jug of urine.
Behind the sunglasses is the soul of a man who is a survivor. He has defended himself and his music during his career and it didn’t take long for him to learn everything on stage can be used as a weapon against those who present themselves as an obstacle to his artistic cause. As recently as five years ago, Freddie had to deliver a swift kick – mid-song – to a bar patron who was looking for trouble. He is proud of the fact he never stopped playing rhythm guitar during the entire incident.
Even though Freddie’s sunglasses prevent others from peering through the windows to his soul, the door is opened and the musician’s extraordinary soul comes pouring out as soon as his “asesinos de cucarachas” boots hit the stage. Sounds of struggle, jubilation, madness, and jive are abundant among Freddie’s extensive repertoire. His various influences, which are an eclectic mix, shine through in every performance.
After being honored with the 2010 Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award, Freddie was inspired to create this album and give the public a snapshot of what lies behind his shades.