Lowell Fulson Equals A Half Century Of Great Blues
Some say Lowell Fulson is the second most important figure in West Coast Blues after T-Bone Walker. I feel strongly about the great T-Bone so maybe it carries some weight that I’d say Fulson is not number two, but a co-equal number one.
Lowell Fulson’s origins may be a bit obscure, but with five decades of major success, Fulson is well worth remembering today. He may have been born on a Choctaw reservation in Oklahoma. He certainly claimed Cherokee blood via his father, but then again, he is also known to have claimed Choctaw blood, too.
He also claimed to have taught himself guitar at a very young age.
What we do know, is that he was living in Ada, Oklahoma, at either age 18 or 19 when he began a several month long partnership with Bluesman Alger “Texas” Alexander. The year was 1940, not at all a bad training ground.
After splitting with Alexander, Lowell moved to California and started a band distinguished by having, at times, Ray Charles and Stanley Turrentine. The sound he developed was very much influenced by his Oklahoma origins and exposure to Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. The bright, mid-tempo style that emerged caught on with many West Coast musicians and, along with the simultaneous emergence of T-Bone Walker, created what we now call West Coast Blues.
Despite his honored place in the West Coast sound, Fulson was quite versatile, willing to try a variety of styles. By his retirement in 1997 he had covered the spectrum of the Blues world.
It comes as no surprise that Ray Charles, as a veteran of Lowell’s early band, recorded Fulson compositions like “Sinner’s Pray.” Many other Blues luminaries also have covered Fulson songs, especially “Everyday I Have the Blues.” Probably the best known version was B. B. King’s.
Other cover's worth mentioning would be Otis Redding and Carla Thomas’ version of “Tramp”, which Salt-N-Pepa also had their own take on. “Tramp” had perhaps its most interesting use sampled by the rapper Redman for his song "Time 4 Sum Aksion."
With fans as varied as Ray Charles and today’s rappers and his mastery of the guitar combined with a big, powerful voice, it’s easy to understand why Lowell Fulson’s five decade career deserves to be listed among the most important in the Blues world.
You can hear Lowell Fulson this week on the Nine O’clock Blues.