Denny Freeman, Austin guitarist who backed Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bob Dylan, dies at 76

Freeman was diagnosed with abdominal cancer several weeks before his passing.

Denny Freeman onstage

Photo: Gary Miller / FilmMagic

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Denny Freeman, the Austin blues scene guitar great who has worked with the likes of Bob Dylan and SRV, has died aged 76.

Several Austin news outlets, including the Austin American-Statesman, have confirmed the bluesman’s passing. He was reportedly diagnosed with abdominal cancer several weeks before his death.

Born in Orlando, Florida, Freeman relocated to Austin, Texas in 1970 at the age of 26. He began his career sharing lead guitar duties with Stevie Ray Vaughan in Paul Ray & The Cobras.

Freeman grew to become a mainstay of the Austin blues circuit in the 70s and 80s. In 1972, he formed Southern Feeling alongside scene legend W.C. Clark.

He was also house guitarist at Antone’s Nightclub, the famed establishment where blues fans could catch sets from Muddy Waters and BB King. During his tenure, Freeman backed giants of the genre, such as Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Albert Collins and Otis Rush.

In 2005, Freeman became a member of Bob Dylan’s band, performing with the folk icon and recording on 2006’s Modern Times.

Reflecting on his time in Dylan’s band, Freeman told the Austin Chronicles in 2015, “It’s kind of hard to talk about playing with Bob Dylan because nothing was ever the same.”

“We had a set list for each night and we even rehearsed before every show, but when we’d get the set list on the way to the stage,” Freeman said. “It wouldn’t be unusual for a song to appear that I’d never heard of, much less played.”

He added: “The only thing that didn’t constantly change was the uncertainty about everything.”

In 2009, Freeman was inducted into the Austin Music Awards Hall of Fame.


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