Bobby Rush

Blues Blast Magazine – 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award

Bobby Rush

If there is one word that epitomizes Bobby Rush, it would be “entertainer”. As a boy, he visualized himself preaching to a congregation or playing music in front of an audience dressed as royally like the figure on his fathers can of Prince Albert tobacco. Later in his career, Bobby Rush relentlessly toured the South, playing night after night in small clubs and juke joints, eventually earning the well-deserved title “King of the Chitlin’ Circuit”.

Once he “crossed over” to gain the attention of white blues fans, Bobby Rush has headlined blues festivals all over the globe. Among his thirty-seven nominations for Blues Music Awards, he has received thirteen nominations for the prestigious B.B. King Entertainer of the Year award. This year he is nominated for 3 Blues Blast Music Awards, Song of the Year category for “Another Murder in New Orleans,” recorded with the Blinddog Smokin’ Band, Soul Blues Album of the Year for the album Decisionsand for Male Blues Artist of the Year. Another recording, Down in Louisiana, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Blues Album, his second Grammy nomination.

Even though he crossed over, Bobby Rush is proud of the fact that he never “crossed out,” as he continues to play the smaller clubs for African-American audiences, sustaining his career for several decades. He triumphantly refers to himself as a black blues singer, able to expertly mix humor, down-home funk and sly, sexy innuendo into a thrilling live show featuring his cadre of female shake dancers.

Born in Homer, Louisiana in 1937, Emmitt Ellis Jr. was the son of a preacher. He had to attend church every Sunday, getting his first exposure to music. Although he never joined the church choir, he learned a few things about playing guitar and harmonica. Once the family moved to Chicago in the early 1950s, Bobby Rush started hanging out with Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed and John Lee Hooker. Blues legends Luther Allison and Freddie King played guitar in his band in those early days.

When he started performing, he changed his name to Bobby Rush out of respect for his father. He recorded a few singles and had a session with Chess Records but it wasn’t until 1971 that Bobby Rush scored his first hit with “Chicken Heads” on the Galaxy label. That record kept Bobby Rush in demand on the club circuit. Philadelphia International released the first Bobby Rush album, Rush Hour, in 1979 with the hitmakers Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff producing. His next monster hit, “Sue” on La Jam Records, kept Bobby Rush in demand all across the South.

He continued to issue a steady stream of records that offered his unique perspective on man-woman relationships. Titles like What’s Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander (La Jam), I Ain’t Studdin’ You (Urgent), Lovin’ a Big Fat Woman & Hoochie Man (Waldoxy Records) made a Bobby Rush a trailblazer for the current southern soul-blues scene. Over the course of his career, he has more than two hundred and fifty records to his credit.

In the last decade, Bobby Rush has eight titles on his own label, Deep Rush Records, releases that feature him mostly with stripped-down accompaniment, highlighting his skills as a singer and songwriter as well as his harmonica and guitar playing. These records show the scope of Bobby Rush’s artistry, standing in sharp contrast to his high energy, bawdy and salacious live performances that continue to delight audiences around the world. He received another honor when he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2006.

Bob Kieser and the staff of Blues Blast Magazine celebrate a lifetime of dedication to Blues music in presenting a 2014 Blues Blast Magazine Lifetime Achievement Awardto Mr. Bobby Rush.