Bobby Rush…2017 GRAMMY winning blues legend, 2006 Blues Hall of Fame Inductee, 10x Blues Music Award winner, B.B. King Entertainer of the Year!
“…the man known as ‘The King of the Chitlin Circuit’… a man who deserves being mentioned in the same context as the blues greats Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, and B.B. King.” – American Blues Scene
Rush estimates that he has cut over 300 songs since he first began making music, releasing his latest project in September 2016. Naming your album after a song entitled “Porcupine Meat” may seem a little unusual unless you’re Bobby Rush, who earned his first gold record in 1971 with a hit entitled “Chicken Heads.” He elaborates on his recent composition: “If a lady won’t treat me right, but she doesn’t want anyone else to have me, that is hard to digest.” Hence the lyric, “too fat to eat, too lean to throw away.” Porcupine Meat is Rush’s debut release for Rounder Records, and one of the best recordings of his astonishing 60-plus year career. Released in late 2016 the album went on to garner a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album after a debut at #1 on the Living Blues radio chart.
But make no mistake: Rush is not your typical octogenarian. At age 83, he exudes the energy of a 20 year old, and is on the road for over 200 dates a year. His hectic tour schedule has earned him the affectionate title “King of the Chitlin’ Circuit.” Rush has traveled the globe, and has performed in such faraway places as Japan and Beirut. In 2007, he earned the distinction of being the first blues artist to play at the Great Wall of China. His renowned stage act features his famed shake dancers, who personify his funky blues and the ribald humor that he has cultivated during the course of his storied career.
Born Emmet Ellis, Jr. in Homer, Louisiana, he adopted the stage name Bobby Rush out of respect for his father, a pastor. According to Rush, his parents never talked about the blues being the devil’s music. “My daddy never told me to sing the blues, but he also didn’t tell me to not sing the blues. I took that as a green light.”
Rush built his first guitar when he was a youngster. “I didn’t know where to buy one, even if I had the money. I was a country boy,” he says. After seeing a picture of a guitar in a magazine, he decided to make one by attaching the top wire of a broom to a wall and fretting it with a bottle. He also got some harmonica lessons from his father He eventually acquired a real guitar, and started playing in juke joints as a teenager, when his family briefly relocated to Little Rock, Arkansas. The fake moustache Rush wore made club owners believe he was old enough to gain entry into their establishments. While he was living in Little Rock, Rush’s band, which featured Elmore James, had a residency at a nightspot called Jackrabbit.
During the mid-1950s, Rush relocated to Chicago to pursue his musical career and make a better life for himself. It was there that he started to work with Earl Hooker, Luther Allison, and Freddie King. sat in with many of his musical heroes, such as Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Willie Dixon,and Little Walter. Rush eventually began leading his own band in the 1960s. He also started to craft his own distinct style of funky blues, and recorded a succession of singles for various small labels. It wasn’t until the early 1970’s that Rush finally scored a hit with “Chicken Heads.” More recordings followed, including an album for Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International Label.
Rush relocated one final time to Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1980s. He was tired of the cold up north, and he realized that setting up his base of operations directly in the center of the South would make it easier to perform in nearby cities on weekends. More indie label recordings followed. Songs like “Sue, A Man Can Give (But He Sure Can’t Take It),” “What’s Good For The Goose Is Good For The Gander Too,” and” I Ain’t Studdin’ You” became regional jukebox favorites in juke joints throughout the region, and many of those songs are still fan favorites that are an integral part of his live repertoire.
Bobby Rush is the greatest bluesman currently performing. Porcupine Meat is a testament to his brilliance, which presents him at his very best, and doesn’t try to be anything that he is not. “I just try to record good music and stories,” he humbly states. With this recording, he has more than accomplished his goal, and has produced one of the finest contemporary blues albums in recent times.
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