Artist Profiles: Bobby Rush

Bobby Rush

Born Emmit Ellis, Jr., Bobby Rush was born in Homer, Louisiana. Rush gained renown in Chicago starting in the 1950s and 60s where he performed or recorded with artists like Howlin’ Wolf, Freddie King, Willie Dixon, Little Milton and Earl Hooker.

In 1969, he recorded the hit “Chicken Heads,” which was one of the last real blues songs to find a home on R&B radio. The song, whose subject matter was slightly outside the mainstream, immediately crowned him the king of the Chitlin Circuit. It’s a scene populated by older, mainly Southern black audiences who gather to hear their music at social clubs — a very different scenario from the comparably pristine world of blues festivals.

After recording for labels like Checker, Galaxy, Ronn, Philadelphia International, ABC and LaJam, Rush recorded a series of albums for Malaco Records in the 1990s. During this period he was slowly “discovered” by white blues fans in search of something more authentically Southern and intense than the merrily rollicking music that had become the blues? mainstream. Rush, with his full-on soul band and sexy dancers, was literally in a class by himself. Word spread around.

In September of 2003, Rush was the subject of a documentary titled The Road To Memphis,” Richard Pearce’s film in the PBS series Martin Scorsese’s “The Blues.”

That same month, Bobby Rush: Live At Ground Zero (Deep Rush Visuals), was released. It’s a DVD and bonus CD soundtrack. The DVD / CD set kicks off Rush’s own Deep Rush label based in Jackson, Mississippi., and distributed by RED Distribution through Emergent Music Marketing.

I’m as excited as I’ve ever been in my entire life, and in 5 years of performing,” says Rush. “It was total chance that Martin Scorsese and Richard Pearce found out about me and took an interest. And I thank the Lord for that! And add the fact that I’m about to release my first live album and DVD. It’s like Bobby Rush is 2 years old again!

Bobby Rush: Live At Ground Zero was shot on a sultry July night at Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero juke joint in the blues mecca of Clarksdale, Mississippi. It serves as a window for the world to see what many have heard about but have not experienced unless they’ve caught Rush’s show — a true Chitlin’ Circuit revue featuring Rush’s dynamic blend of Southern soul and Mississippi blues. It is a show that has won Rush the honors of “Best Live Performer” by both the critics and the readers of Living Blues magazine in 1998,1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002.

In addition to Bobby Rush: Live At Ground Zero, Rush also released Undercover Lover on his Deep Rush label that continues the musical tradition he started over the previous decade.

Bobby Rush: Live At Ground Zero also marked the comeback of Rush in the wake of a near-fatal tour bus accident that occurred in April, 21 outside of Tallahassee, Florida., in which Rush sustained critical injuries. Rush’s bus driver had suffered a sudden heart attack and drove off the road. The bus rolled four or five times. Rush was pinned to the collapsed ceiling and was extracted with a device called the jaws of life. A dancer in his band was killed. “I could have ended up paralyzed or dead,” says Rush. “There’s no reason I should have gone on living unless God had a reason. And that’s what’s inspired me to go forward.”

Bobby Rush lives in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Discography:

Rush Hour (Philadelphia International, 1979)
Sue (LaJam, 1981)
Wearing It Out (LaJam, 1983)
Gotta Have Money (LaJam, 1984)
What’s Good for the Goose Is Good for the Gander (LaJam, 1985)
A Man Can Give It (But He Can’t Take It) (LaJam, 1988)
Making a Decision (LaJam, 1983)
Man Can Give It but He Can’t Take It (La Jam, 1990)
I Ain’t Studdin’ You (Urgent, 1991)
Handy Man (Urgent, 1992)
One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show (Waldoxy, 1995)
Wearing It Out (La Jam, 1996)
It’s Alright, Vol. 2 (1997)
Lovin’ a Big Fat Woman (Waldoxy, 1997)
Rush Hour… Plus (Philadelphia Intl, 1999)
The Best of Bobby Rush (La Jam, 1999)
Hoochie Man (Waldoxy, 2000)
Undercover Lover (Deep Rush, 2003)
Live at Ground Zero (Deep Rush, 2003)
Folkfunk (Deep Rush, 2004)
Night Fishin (Deep Rush, 2005)
Essential Recordings, Volume 1 (Deep Rush, 2006)
Essential Recordings, Volume 2 (Deep Rush, 2006)
Raw (Deep Rush, 2007)
Look at What You Gettin’ (Deep Rush, 2008)
Blind Snake (Deep Rush, 2009)
Show You a Good Time (Deep Rush, 2011)
Down in Louisiana (Thirty Tigers, 2013)
Decisions (Silver Talon Records, 2014)
Porcupine Meat (Rounder Records, 2016)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.

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