The bay area Blues of one man band Jesse Fuller

The Blues of one man band inventor Jesse Fuller

Jesse Fuller was much more than a magnificent one man band folk blues musician. He was a movie star inter alia in ´the Thief Of Bagdad (1924), he ran a concession stand in front of the Hollywood studios, he was a factory worker in Oakland and an inventor. His influence is huge, everyone in the Bay Area knew Jesse Fuller.

Fuller Born in Georgia, never knew his parents and was raised by a couple who treated him ‘worse than a dog’. At age nine he was able to leave the situation and worked as a cow gazer near Atlanta. He crossed around the country until he moved to Oakland in 1929. In Oakland he developed himself as a musician who could play the 12-string guitar, the harmonica, kazoo, percussion and a foot-operated string bass he had made out of a piano case called the “Fotdella”. In 1954 Arhoolie founder Chris Strachwitz recorded Jesse Fuller with an easy second hand tape machine at Fuller’s house. (The American Book of the Dead, p.126)

Bass instrument the `Fotdella’

For his one man band act Fuller needed a bass instrument. He already used the hi-hat and bass drum pedal and needed an accompaniment instrument. While lying in bed Fuller dreamed about constructing a foot-operated bass instrument. It ended up as a large upright box with a rounded top, Six bass strings were attached to the neck and stretched over the body.

To play the instrument, there was a homemade set of foot pedals, each one bringing a padded hammer to strike a string when depressed, like the action of a piano. The name “fotdella” was given to the instrument by Fuller’s wife, who took to calling it a “foot-diller” (as in the then-current expression, “killer-diller”, meaning exceedingly good); later, it became shortened to just fotdella.

San Fransisco Bay Blues

One of the most joyful blues songs ever made is Jesse Fuller´s San Fransisco Bay Blues first recorded in 1955. Artist like Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Richie Havens, Paul Mc Cartney covered the song. San Fransisco Bay Blues is cheerful song and that is mostly because of the Kazoo Solo throughout the song. The rhyme of San Fransisco Bay Blues if magnificent, rhythmic, fast and visually the perfect description of the blue feeling everyone has, when your baby left you.

Bob Dylan San Fransisco Bay Blues

Eric Clapton San Fransisco Bay Blues


I got those blues where my baby
Left me down by the frisco bay, yea-yea
An ocean liner came and took her away, yea-yea

I didn’t mean to treat her bad,
She was the best friend I ever had,
She said goodbye, she made me cry,
She made me wanna lay down my head and die…i


Fuller’s Song “Beat It Down The Line was recorded by the Grateful Dead and featured on their debut album

Despite his hard youth Jesse Fuller always made joyful and happy feeling music. He invented, performed and recorded for several record labels. Fuller is one of the most memorable blues man of all time. Watch a Film Documentary about Jesse Fuller Here.

Jesse Fuller – You’re No Good

Jesse Fuller pt 1

Jesse Fuller pt 2

Jesse Fuller on Spotify

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