Lowell Fulson – Live! with Jeff Dale & the Blue Wave Band
Pro Sho Bidness PSB 1983
10 songs – 42 minutes
Lowell Fulson left us in 1999 but left a legacy as one of the most important songwriters and guitarists in West Coast blues. He gets to live again and play at the top of his game here thanks to the work of former bandmate Jeff Dale who came across this set while homebound at the height of the coronavirus epidemic and spending his downtime by rummaging through a box of long-forgotten tapes.
An Oklahoma native born on a Choctaw reservation in 1921 but claiming a Cherokee bloodline, Fulson was barely out of his teens when he began making a name for himself in California. His first band there included a young Ray Charles and future tenor sax giant Stanley Turrentine, too. Following a stint in the Navy during World War II, he went on to a long and successful recording career for Chess, Arhoolie, Jewel, Kent, Rounder and several other labels.
Fulson’s a Blues Hall of Fame inductee and a Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer honoree whose catalog of originals included “Blue Shadows,” “Reconsider Baby,” “Everyday I Have the Blues” and several other tunes still played today. He passed at age 77 in 1999 – four years after earning a Grammy nomination for the album Them Update Blues.
A native of Chicago’s South Side who’s enjoyed a successful 40-year career of his own, Dale was a national artist in his early 20s when the Canadian band Powder Blues was appearing at a club in Hollywood in the early ‘80s and invited both him and Lowell to sit in. Their friendship they formed that day eventually became a partnership when Fulson called him out of the blue and recruited him to join forces and set up a tour.
Now fronting the band the South Woodlawners, Jeff recorded this set on a four-track Tascam Portastudio when they appeared at Club 88 in Los Angeles on Nov. 3, 1983. It remained a hidden treasure until unearthed four decades later, when the material was edited by Rich Hyland and remastered by Dave Donnelly.
Fulson delivers eight of his own tunes here along with two covers in a lineup that includes Dale and Lightnin’ Dan Sonenfeld on guitars, Phil Munsey on drums and Ron Maldonado on bass. They’re accompanied by a trio of sax players: Pete Zilchak, Steve Primo and Marshall Crayton Jr., the grandson of another West Coast blues legend, the late Pee Wee Crayton.
The original instrumental “Do You Feel It” fires out of the gate at a chaotic pace to open the action before settling down as Fulson takes to the mic the driving shuffle, “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” His warm, mid-range voice powers through the tune, which features a stellar, stinging mid-tune guitar solo. The six-strings come to the fore to open the familiar romantic complaint, “Too Many Drivers,” which first appeared on Britain’s Sue imprint in 1965, before a brief horn solo. A brief verse follows before an 80-second guitar run and another verse bring the song to a close.
“Blue Shadows,” which hit the No. 1 spot on R&B charts for Fulson and Swing Time Records in 1950, sounds close to the original before Lowell dips into the catalog of Chick Willis for a cover of the sexually charged pleaser, “Stoop Down Baby.” By the time Lowell recorded “Reconsider Baby,” which follows, he’d moved on to the Chess subsidiary Checker. Even though the tune’s been covered well over 1,000 times, there’s nothing like the master’s touch on this one, which hit the No. 3 spot in 1954.
A trio of Fulson’s minor numbers — “Do You Feel It,” “Blues Pain” and “Lowell’s Lollipop” – follow before the Jimmy Rushing-Count Basie classic, “Going to Chicago Blues,” brings the set to a successful close.
Available through most major retailers, this one’s a treasure for anyone with an ear for traditional West Coast blues.