What's in a name' In Lowell
Fulson's case, plenty! During his long and storied career he recorded
under his own name as well as Lowell Fullsom and Lowell Fulsom. Done so
for business reasons, there was no hiding his true identity once he
began to sing and play. An Oklahoma native, Fulson grew up with equal
doses of Bob Wills and Texas blues and soon became the leading proponent
of the West Coast blues sound. A triple threat as a
singer/writer/guitar player, Fulson recorded for many labels, notably
Swing Time, Chess/Checker, Kent and Rounder. His numerous hits included
'Reconsider Baby,' 'Lonesome Christmas,' 'Tramp' (famously covered by
Carla and Rufus Thomas), 'Three O'Clock Blues' and 'Everyday I Have The
Blues.' His influence on his peers and subsequent generations of
musicians is incalculable.
Upon signing with Chess Records in 1954, Fulson recorded
'Reconsider Baby' under the direction of Stan Lewis in Dallas, Texas.
One of the horn players on the session, saxophonist David 'Fathead'
Newman, became a major star in his own right. Though the hits
temporarily dried up in the latter part of his Chess/Checker career, a
move to Kent Records in 1965 sparked a chart resurgence. Hitting in
rapid succession with 'Black Nights,' 'Tramp,' 'Make a Little Love' and
'I'm a Drifter,' Fulson firmly reestablished his dominance of the genre,
winning over a new generation of fans coming to the blues through the
Rolling Stones, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Cream and other blues
Taking a break from Kent, Fulson reunited with Lewis to record a new
album, In A Heavy Bag, as 'Lowell Fulsom.' Released on Lewis'
Shreveport, Louisiana-based Jewel Records, it is heavy, indeed!
opener 'Look at You Baby' throws out sharp, piercing leads that would
make Albert Collins shudder. Right on its heels is a wickedly salacious
cover of the Beatles 'Why Don't We Do It In The Road.' The guitar tones
on 'Don't Destroy Me' percolate with such deep distortion that it surely
shook Jimmy Page all night long and then some.
the album, the most powerful instrument is Fulson's booming voice.
Singing in a muscular, direct tone, it is easy to hear the effect he had
on his one-time piano player, Mr. Ray Charles Robinson, aka Ray
Fulson continued to perform and record until illness slowed him shortly
before his death in 1999. Across such a rich career, there are many
defining moments and In A Heavy Bag gathers eleven of those moments in
one place. Sourced from the original Jewel analog tapes, this album is
an immensely enjoyable listening experience from beginning to end.
Article properties: Lowell Fulsom: In A Heavy Bag (180 g vinyl)
It took some time, but Lowell Fulson eventually emerged as one of his generation's leading electric blues guitarists. That didn't mean he couldn't go the acoustic route as well, at least early in his recording career, but it was his concise amplified lead work and hearty vocals that proved so influential to the likes of B.B. King.
Fulson was born into a musical family on March 31, 1921 near Tulsa, Oklahoma; his father and younger brother Martin also played guitar. "I was just looking at my uncles play. Two or three of 'em around there had guitars and played. It was about the only instrument there was, that and violin. So I just picked it up," said the late Fulson. "As far as the blues, that's about the only thing you'd hear, unless it was country and western." Fluent on guitar in his teens, Lowell moved to Ada, Oklahoma, in his late teens. "I played in Dan Wright's big all-string band for about a year, down there in Ada. Texas Alexander came through there about a year later, and I stuck with him 'cause I liked goin' different places," he said. "I stayed out there with Texas about, I don't know, six or eight months, and then I went home."
While serving in the Navy during the war, Fulson was stationed in Oakland. When he got out, he returned and ran into fledgling producer Bob Geddins in 1946. "Just happened to be walkin' down 8th Street. I heard some music and stuff, a record player, and I stopped in there and looked," said Lowell. "He had a one-man press, pressin' records, up and down, pressing one record at a time. So he had an old beat-up guitar, and I picked it up and went to banging on it. So he looked at me and quit pressing. He said, 'Have you ever recorded?' I told him no. He said, 'You want to make a record?' I said, 'I don't care.' He said, 'I'll give you $100.' 'Let's go!'
"Bob Geddins had Big Town, and then we did some stuff on Trilon. 'Course, I wasn't under contract," he said. "But somebody pay you to cut a record, you cut a record!" A lot of his early Big Town and Trilon 78s made little impact, but Fulson scored his first national hit in '48 on Geddins' Down Town logo with the downbeat Three O'Clock Blues, which would also be B.B.'s first hit, a chart-topper at that, in 1951.
Leaving Geddins' operation in favor of Jack Lauderdale's L.A.-based Swing Time diskery, Lowell had a huge year in 1950, starting with Everyday I Have The Blues. "That was Memphis Slim's 'Nobody Loves Me,'" he admitted. "I liked the tune, and I'd taken it, rearranged (it as) 'Everyday I Have The Blues.' I wouldn't call myself taking it. I just pitched it where I could sing it like I wanted to. But he gets the credit for writing the thing." Even Slim had borrowed the number; the Sparks Brothers originated it on Bluebird in 1935—as Every Day I Have The Blues. Pianist Lloyd Glenn rated a prominent mention on the label of Lowell's version (supported by alto saxist Earl Brown, bassist Billy Hadnott, and drummer Bob Harvey).
"We went through a couple of pianists to try to get somebody that could work with me like I wanted to," said Fulson. "We tried Jay McShann and two or three more guys, but none of 'em didn't fit like Lloyd. Me and him kind of hit it off together, made it alright." Cut in Los Angeles in 1949, Everyday was a #3 R&B hit the next spring, and Lowell's special year was just ramping up. His Blue Shadows vaulted to number one that fall, and his holiday offering Lonesome Christmas and the snazzy instrumental Low Society Blues charted too.