About fast Freddy sims

The Early Days

Where and when were you born?

I was born in San Francisco in 1951. A very long time ago.

What are some of your earliest memories?

Well, I was told by my mom that when we left the hospital they took me home on a San Francisco cable car. So, right from the start, I was a part of the San Francisco culture.

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My earliest memories were that San Francisco was a family town back then -- at least in the neighborhood where I grew up. I remember lots of kids out in the streets playing baseball and football. Typical kids stuff. I have great memories of that time.

I remember having a lot of good friends. I always liked people.

We lived in the city right on Mission street above a store. Anything you could want was close by -- very convenient.

Any specific memories that stuck with you?

I remember when I was about 10 years old, my uncle Bob took me to see Buddy Rich at The Basin Street West jazz club.

Buddy was the most famous drummer back then. In fact, at that time, just about everybody knew the name of Buddy Rich, whether you were interested in music or not.

My uncle brought me up to meet him after the show. I remember he was kind of scary because he was so intense. Uncle Bob said, "This young man has a request."

Buddy came down to my level and put his face about 6 inches from mine, and said, "And what exactly do YOU want?"

Did I mention I was scared to death?

I could barely get the words out. "Can . . . Can I have one of your broken drumsticks, Mr. Rich?"

His face broke into a smile and he patted me on the head. And then he walked away. I never did get that broken drumstick. But the memory of meeting Buddy Rich, the most famous drummer in the world, always stuck with me.

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I had another uncle in Oakland who was a professional drummer. He was actually blind and I remember visiting him with my family.

I saw his set of drums in his bedroom and I would just stare at them wishing I could try playing them. Unfortunately, I never got the chance.

Did you take any music lessons as a child?

I took accordion lessons from age 7-12. I actually enjoyed it and got pretty good, but at the time it wasn't cool with my friends, so I gave it up.

When I was 15, times were tough and my family got evicted from our apartment. We ended up on Mission Street in a cheap, 3-room motel unit. The Chambers Brothers (Time Has Come Today) were living next door for a month – they were very popular in the Bay area and the whole country.

I got to know their drummer and would talk to him about playing drums. He said, "First thing you have to do is get yourself a set of drums." Made a lot of sense. But since you actually had to have money to buy a set of drums, that wasn't an option for me.

When did you start getting interested in the drums?

At about age 16-17, one of my friend's father had a practice drum kit set up in his garage and he would let us fool around on them. I really enjoyed it. That's when I really started to get interested.

 

A friend of mine let me borrow his set of drums. I actually didn't get my own set of drums until I was 18.

At about this time, everybody was starting a Garage Band. Jerry Garcia lived in our neighborhood, and so did Sly Stone. So, musically it was a very exciting area and time.

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Freddy, Age 7

Did you meet any successful musicians at that time?

At 17, I moved out to live with some friends. We were about 5 minutes away from the Filmore West. My good friend, George, and I, went there almost every night.

We hung around the back and talked to some of the musicians who came and went. One night we met Albert King, one of the most famous blues guitarists and singers.

He was known as "The Velvet Bulldozer" because of his size, well over 6 feet tall and 250 pounds. He also operated a bulldozer early in his career.

He actually talked to me and I told him I wanted to be a blues drummer. He encouraged me and he always remembered my name.

He made a big impression on me and inspired me to keep working towards my goals. That was a turning point in my life -- I knew I was going to be a blues drummer. No doubt about it.

Some of the other groups who played at the Filmore in 1968 were:

  • Albert Collins

  • Big Brother and the Holding Company

  • Blood Sweat & Tears

  • Buck Owens & The Buckaroos

  • Buddy Guy

  • Butterfield Blues Band

  • Canned Heat

  • Chambers Brothers

  • Chuck Berry

  • Country Joe & The Fish

  • Creedence Clearwater Revival

  • Deep Purple

  • Eric Burdon & The Animals

  • Fleetwood Mac

  • Freddie King

  • Gordon Lightfoot

  • Grass Roots

  • Grateful Dead

  • Ike & Tina Turner

  • Iron Butterfly

  • James Cotton Blues Band

  • Jeff Beck

  • Jefferson Airplane

  • Kaleidoscope

  • Moby Grape

  • Moody Blues

  • Procol Harum

  • Quicksilver

  • Richie Havens

  • Santana

  • Sly & The Family Stone

  • Staple Singers

  • Steppenwolf

  • Steve Miller

  • Ten Years After

  • The Who

  • Vanilla Fudge

  • Youngbloods, and more

When did you get your own drums?

A year later, at age 18, I got my own set of drums. I felt like I was on top of the world. I was living in Haight Ashbury, which was the center of the west coast music scene at that time.

I loved the area and the music -- especially the blues. I met a lot of musicians in the area, and became friends with a member of Big Brother and the Holding Company. I would jam once or twice a week with him and many other musicians from the area.

I'd listen to blues albums and try to pick up some drum techniques -- Paul Butterfield, Blues Project and Albert King.

When did you start putting together your own band?

When I was 19, I started putting bands together with my friend, Billy "Beercan” (harmonica and vocals). Bill Borsey aka "Willy Deville" played lead guitar for a while. Members would come and go, that's the way it was back then -- still is today.

They were all blues bands.

Where did you play?

We played at The Sand Dunes, promoted as San Francisco’s Only Blues Club!

We also played at The Ribeltad Vorden, at 300 Precita Avenue and at Club Four in East Pala Alto -- an all African American club. That was heavy, serious blues. We were fortunate to be in high demand.

Did you work a regular job at that time?

In 1970 I got a job as a gardener's assistant at Golden Gate Park. I really enjoyed being outdoors. Plus, Jefferson Airplane with Grace Slick had a house across from the park. I met a lot of the music celebrities from that time coming in and out of that house.

Around 1973, live music was on the way out and Disco began to take over. That was a hard time for live bands.

Is it true that you backed up striptease artists at one time?

Actually, that's true. I was hired as the house drummer and backup to a Hammond organ player at a burlesque theater. These were NOT sleazy strip shows, but just fun entertainment with lots of dancing and a small amount of tame striptease. 

It was a real theater with an orchestra pit and a Master of Ceremonies dressed in a tuxedo. I met a 70-year-old vaudeville comedian there named Monkey Kirkland. He was actually pretty funny. Two of the popular performers were, Tempest Storm and Denise Darcell.

Tempest Storm dated Elvis for a while in the 1950s, and had an alleged fling with JFK before he became President.

What was your relationship to Blaze Starr?

Blaze Starr was one of the most popular performers at the burlesque club I worked at. In 1974, I became Blaze Starr's personal drummer. It paid well, and she was fun to work with, but our relationship was strictly professional. As time went on, she became quite famous and found herself in the news very often.

In 1989, a movie was made about her life called "Blaze" starring Paul Newman. After that movie with Paul Newman, Blaze became more mainstream.

Whatever happened to Silver Dawn?

I later wrote a song about this period in 2016. It was called – Whatever Happened to Silver Dawn?

In 1974-75, I felt pretty good about my situation. I was comfortable at $450 a week, cash, with a 3-bedroom house for $150 a month rent. Gas was only 25 - 50 a gallon. Times were good.

I understand that you started a business at that time.

Yes, in 1976, I started a landscaping business in San Francisco. I owned and ran that business for 30 years before closing it down in 2016. I also owned a plant nursery.

But I never stopped playing in blues bands on the side.

Between 1976 – 2004, I played with a number of celebrity musicians (Luther Tucker, Cool Papa, Johnny Copeland, Charlie Musselwhite, etc.)

 

When and how did you get into songwriting?
In 1976, I met and became friends with famed, blues songwriter, Willie Dixon. He was the most successful and prolific blues songwriter of all time. He started off as the studio bass player at Chess Records. He ended up writing well over 500 blues songs.

He wrote songs for many of Chess Record's artists and his songs have been covered by countless famous artists including the following:

  • B.B. King

  • Bruce Springstein

  • Canned Heat

  • Charlie Musselwhite

  • Chuck Berry

  • Elvis Costello

  • Elvis Presley

  • Eric Clapton

  • Howlin' Wolf

  • Humble Pie

  • J. Geils Band

  • James Cotton

  • Jimi Hendricks

  • Johnny Winter

  • Led Zeppelin

  • Muddy Waters

  • Paul Butterfield

  • Peter, Paul and Mary

  • Savoy Brown

  • Steppenwolf

  • Stevie Ray Vaughan

  • Stevie Ray Vaughan

  • The Allman Brothers

  • The Animals

  • The Doors

  • The Grateful Dead

  • The Kinks

  • The Rolling Stones

  • The Who

  • The Yardbirds

  • Tina Turner

  • Tom Jones

  • Tom Petty

  • Van Morrison

  • and dozens dozens more

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Albert King, Blues Guitarist

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Elvis and Tempest Storm

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Luther Tucker

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Willie Dixon, Blues Songwriter

The night I sat in with Willie Dixon's Chicago Blues All-Stars

I was very honored one night when Willie Dixon invited me to sit in with his Willie Dixon's Chicago Blues All-Stars.

 

Johnny Shines - guitar, Clifton James - drums, Willie Dixon - acoustic bass, Sunnyland Slim - piano, Carey Bell Harrington - harmonica and Willie's son, Freddy Dixon - electric bass.)

Was Willie Dixon your inspiration for becoming a blues songwriter?

Willie Dixon was amazing and he became my songwriting mentor. He was definitely my inspiration for pursuing songwriting as strongly as I have. He kept encouraging me to keep at it.

At one point I asked Willie if I could record his song, It don’t Make Sense.

Willie wrote a personal letter to me saying that he would love for me to record it, and included a vinyl 45 record of the song. That record and his personal letter to me are cherished mementoes that I treasure to this day.

In 1986, I formed a band called, Fast Freddy and the Night Owls We performed on and off for 14 years – frequently changing members.

From 2000-2012, I had a band called Fast Freddy Sims and Blue Point of View. We also recorded an album called I'm Gonna Move to an Island Paradise.

On a side note, how did the name Fast Freddy come about?

A lot of people ask me that. And my answer is always the same . . . it’s a secret. Not even my wife, Elizabeth, knows the answer.

In 2000, I recorded an album called Difference in the Logic with Don Preston, guitarist, who played and/or recorded with Richie Valens, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, two albums with George Harrison and one with Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Freddy King and Merle Haggard. Also on that album is Charlie Musclewhite (harmonica).

 

That album is unreleased but ready to go. Don Preston is on over 50 major, vinyl albums.

When did you meet your wife, Elizabeth, and when did you decide to move to Maui?

In 2004, I met Elizabeth Gibbons at a show where one of my backup singers was performing. We started dating at that time.

The first time I moved to Maui was in 2012. Then in 2014, I moved back to San Francisco.

In 2018, Elizabeth and I moved to Maui together.

On June 24, 2019, we were married on Maui. And we have been on an eternal honeymoon ever since.

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Willie Dixon's

Chicago Blues All-Stars

What is your life like on the beautiful, tropical island of Maui, Hawaii?

It's wonderful, relaxing, exciting, hectic, energizing, inspiring and most of all it's a beautiful place to live.

My lovely wife, Elizabeth, is a visionary artist who has a never-ending stream of creative ideas that I help her bring to life.

We have been creating and building an artistic sanctuary on our Maui property ever since we settled here. 

Maui is home to a wonderful community of diverse artists and musical performers, which is perfect for us.

Of course, I am still playing the blues and continue to write and record my original blues songs.

I have put together yet another band on Maui called the Blue Lava Blues Band. We keep busy with frequent gigs at the local venues.

There is never a dull moment, and we love our life here on Maui.

It truly is a tropical paradise.

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