LOWELL FULSON BIOGRAPHY –
Lowell Fulson (March 31, 1921 – March 7, 1999) was a big-voiced blues guitarist and songwriter, in the West Coast blues tradition. Fulson was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He also recorded for business reasons as Lowell Fullsom and Lowell Fulsom. After T-Bone Walker, Fulson was the most important figure in West Coast blues in the 1940s and 1950s.
According to some sources, Fulson was born on a Choctaw reservation in Oklahoma. Fulson has stated that he is of Cherokee ancestry through his father, but he has also claimed Choctaw ancestry. At the age of eighteen, Fulson moved to Ada, Oklahoma, and joined Alger “Texas” Alexander for a few months in 1940, but later moved to California, forming a band which soon included a young Ray Charles and tenor saxophone player, Stanley Turrentine. He recorded for Swing Time in the 1940s, Chess Records (Checker Records) in the 1950s, Kent Records in the 1960s, and Rounder Records (Bullseye) in the 1970s.
“Reconsider Baby” came from a long term pact inked with Chess Records in 1954. It was cut in Dallas under Stan Lewis’ supervision with a saxophone section that included David “Fathead” Newman on tenor and Leroy Cooper on baritone.
Jackie Brenston played in Fulson’s band between 1952 and 1954.
Fulson stayed with Checker into 1962, but a change of record labels worked wonders when he jumped over to the Los Angeles based, Kent Records. 1965’s driving “Black Nights” became his first hit in a decade, and “Tramp,” did even better, restoring the guitarist to R&B stardom.
Fulson was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1993 and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album. His “Reconsider Baby” was chosen by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll”.
In 1993 at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, California a show entitled “California Blues – Swingtime Tribute” opened with Fulson plus Johnny Otis, Charles Brown, Jay McShann, Jimmy Witherspoon, Jimmy McCracklin and Earl Brown.
A resident of Los Angeles, Fulson died in Long Beach, California in March 1999, at the age of 77. His companion Tina Mayfield stated that the causes of death were complications from kidney disease, diabetes, and congestive heart failure. He was the father of four and grandfather of thirteen.
Fulson was interred in Inglewood Park Cemetery, in Inglewood, California.
Lowell Fulson recorded every shade of blues imaginable. Polished urban blues, rustic two-guitar duets with his younger brother Martin, funk-tinged grooves that pierced the mid-’60s charts, even an unwise cover of the Beatles’ “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road!” Clearly, the veteran guitarist, who was active for more than half a century, wasn’t afraid to experiment. Perhaps that’s why his last couple of discs for Rounder were so vital and satisfying — and why he remained an innovator for so long.
Exposed to the western swing of Bob Wills as well as indigenous blues while growing up in Oklahoma, Fulson joined up with singer Texas Alexander for a few months in 1940, touring the Lone Star state with the veteran bluesman. Fulson was drafted in 1943. The Navy let him go in 1945; after a few months back in Oklahoma, he was off to Oakland, CA, where he made his first 78s for fledgling producer Bob Geddins. Soon enough, Fulson was fronting his own band and cutting a stack of platters for Big Town, Gilt Edge, Trilon, and Down Town (where he hit big in 1948 with “Three O’Clock Blues,” later covered by B.B. King).
Swing Time records prexy Jack Lauderdale snapped up Fulson in 1948, and the hits really began to flow: the immortal “Every Day I Have the Blues” (an adaptation of Memphis Slim’s “Nobody Loves Me”), “Blue Shadows,” the two-sided holiday perennial “Lonesome Christmas,” and a groovy mid-tempo instrumental “Low Society Blues” that really hammers home how tremendously important pianist Lloyd Glenn and alto saxist Earl Brown were to Fulson’s maturing sound (all charted in 1950!).
Fulson toured extensively from then on, his band stocked for a time with dazzling pianist Ray Charles (who later covered Lowell’s “Sinner’s Prayer” for Atlantic) and saxist Stanley Turrentine. After a one-off session in New Orleans in 1953 for Aladdin, Fulson inked a longterm pact with Chess in 1954. His first single for the firm was the classic “Reconsider Baby,” cut in Dallas under Stan Lewis’s supervision with a sax section that included David “Fathead” Newman on tenor and Leroy Cooper on baritone.
The relentless mid-tempo blues proved a massive hit and perennial cover item — even Elvis Presley cut it in 1960, right after he got out of the Army. But apart from “Loving You,” the guitarist’s subsequent Checker output failed to find widespread favor with the public. Baffling, since Fulson’s crisp, concise guitar work and sturdy vocals were as effective as ever. Most of his Checker sessions were held in Chicago and L.A. (the latter his home from the turn of the ’50s).
Fulson stayed with Checker into 1962, but a change of labels worked wonders when he jumped over to Los Angeles-based Kent Records. 1965’s driving “Black Nights” became his first smash in a decade, and “Tramp,” a loping funk-injected workout co-written by Fulson and Jimmy McCracklin, did even better, restoring the guitarist to R&B stardom, gaining plenty of pop spins, and inspiring a playful Stax cover by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas only a few months later that outsold Fulson’s original.
A couple of lesser follow-up hits for Kent ensued before the guitarist was reunited with Stan Lewis at Jewel Records. That’s where he took a crack at that Beatles number, though most of his outings for the firm were considerably closer to the blues bone. Fulson was never been absent for long on disc; 1992’s Hold On and its 1995 follow-up Them Update Blues, both for Ron Levy’s Bullseye Blues logo, were among his later efforts, both quite solid. Fulson continued to perform until 1997, when health problems forced the career bluesman into a reluctant retirement. His health continued to deteriorate and on March 6, 1999 – just a few weeks shy of his 78th birthday – Lowell Fulson passed away.