Lowell Fulson’s laid back attitude and West Coast grooving Blues
West Coast Blues pioneer Lowell Fulson inspired a generation of new Blues musicians like Ray Charles and BB King with his uptown jump Blues from Oakland California. Ray Charles was part of Lowell’s band as a pianist during the forties and fifties. BB was inspired while working as a DJ in Memphis and became a big fan of Lowell. Fulson’s songs were recorded by artists like Elvis Presley and Otis Redding. His music was sampled by Salt ‘n Peppa and the Wu Tang Clan. The kid from Oklahoma walked a long journey to become an inspiring bluesman.
Legacy of Lowell Fulson
Lowell wasn’t an urban city bluesman. His songs were laid back like you would expect on the sunny West Coast. His guitar solos were smooth and his lyrics were direct. You will notice this in songs like “Tramp”, which was covered most successfully by Otis Redding. A legion of bluesmen recorded the song later, which originally reached #5 in the R&B chart. Men like Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter and Junior Kimborough among them.
Start of career in Oklahoma
Born in Oklahoma Fulson did not spent a lot of time in “The Sooner State”, Lowell esthablished in Texas. It would become the place where he came in contact with the blues through greats like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lonnie Johnson and Little Hat Jones (Encyclopedia of the Blues-2nd (p71) 1992, author Gérard Herzhaf). After some time Fulson was good enough to take part in the band of traveling artist Texas Alexander in 1939, replacing Howlin’ Wolf according to Nick Talevski’s Rock Obituaries – Knocking On Heaven’s Door p.188.
Not Texas but California became the place this bluesman really got things going. In 1943 he left Texas Alexander’s band and moved to California for his navy duty in World War II. The next two years he worked overseas and got inspired by some of the greatest swing and jazz tunes around. These tunes would stay part of his style throughout his career. After the war he settled in the East Bay Area.
Best songs Lowell Fulson
To get an impression of the laid back blues Lowell Fulson made fame with and eventually became the head of a Rhythm and Blues community on the West Coast, you should listen to songs like ‘When the Figs Start Falling”, “Everyday Blues” and “Oh Well Oh Well”.
‘When the Figs Start Falling”
“Oh Well Oh Well”
In 1954 Lowell Fulson wrote and recorded Reconsider Baby his biggest or at least his most covered song recorded for Checker Record in 1954. Today this song is considered a Blues Classic like other diamond song’s as “Got My Mojo Working” and “Baby Please Don’t Go”. Many blues and other artists have recorded Lowell Fulson’s “Reconsider Baby”. Most famous is perhaps the 1960 version of Elvis Presley, recorded for his Elvis Is Back! album. According to Wikipedia Presley recorded an earlier version in 1956 during a jam session at Sun Studio with Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, later known as the “Million Dollar Quartet“. You might also like Little Milton’s version of ‘Reconsider Baby’, recorded on ‘Sings Big Blues’ in 1966.
Elvis Presley – Reconsider Baby
During the nineties Lowell Fulson was an esthablished musician, but his career was low-key. Other artists like Eric Clapton and B.B. King asked Lowell to perform alongside them. He kept performing and recording for mostly small record labels. Most of his work can be found online and there you will see how different his songs and lyrics are. Lowell Fulson was a big man of the blues, a heavy weight and a winner.
My father’s nephew was the blues musician, Lowell Fulson. Every time he came around, he had a pretty car, a beautiful woman and a slick sharkskin suit. Believe it or not, that’s how I decided I wanted to get into music.
– Charlie Wilson –
Photo Credit feature picture: By Lioneldecoster (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons