Bobby Rush

Bobby Rush

Born: November 10, 1935, Haynesville, Louisiana

Rush, Bobby

Photo credit: Francoise Digel

Known for his bawdy stage shows, soul -blues artist Bobby Rush remains true to his roots by continuing to perform in juke joints on the “chitlin’ circuit” (a loosely organized string of clubs that stretched across the country that were friendly to African American musicians during the period of racial segregation), while reaching out to younger audiences with his intimate, stripped-down acoustic blues sets. Inspired by his father, a pastor who played guitar and harmonica, young Ellis began playing a diddley bow, (a crude guitar) that he constructed out of a wire, a wooden bucket, and a broom stick. In 1946, Ellis moved with his family to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where he formed a band featuring electric slide guitar pioneer Elmore James and pianist Moose John Walker. Ellis, still a teenager, wore a fake mustache to make himself look older so he could play with the band in local juke joints. In 1953, he moved to Chicago with his family. In a hurry to get established as a performer, he assumed the stage name Bobby Rush to reflect that urgency. Hanging out in clubs on the South Side of Chicago, Rush carefully watched Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and other Chicago blues greats. He transcended those influences and found his own voice—retaining his southern drawl. Rush formed his own his band featuring Freddie King and Luther Allison and began playing in clubs around Chicago. In 1971, Rush hit big nationally with Chicken Heads, a risqué celebration of his love of women. A string of hits followed throughout the 1970s, culminating with the release of Rush Hour. In the early 1980s, Rush moved to Jackson, Mississippi, and recorded for a number of Soul-blues labels before forming his own Deep Rush Records. Taking control of his music, he released a number of critically acclaimed recordings. Rush continues to record and tour, performing his unique style of blues he calls folkfunk.

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 Bobby is on the Bobby Rush Blues Trail Marker, and on eight others

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