Bobby Rush (musician)

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Bobby Rush
Birth name Emmit Ellis Jr.
Born (1940-11-10) November 10, 1940 (age 73)
Homer, Louisiana, United States
Origin Pine Bluff, Arkansas, United States
Genres Soul, soul blues, electric blues[1]
Occupations Singer, songwriter
Instruments Vocals, guitar, harmonica
Years active Early 1960s–present
Labels Various

Bobby Rush (born Emmit Ellis Jr., November 10, 1940, Homer, Louisiana) is an American blues and R&B musician, composer and singer.[1] His style incorporates elements of soul blues, rap and funk.


Born Emmit Ellis, Jr. in Homer, Louisiana, Rush was the son of Ellis Sr. and Mattie Ellis. His father was a pastor whose guitar and harmonica playing provided early musical influences. As a young child he began experimenting with music using a sugar-cane syrup-bucket and a broom-wire diddley bow. Around 1946, he and the family moved to Pine Bluff, Arkansas where his father took on the pastorate of a church. It was here that Rush would become friends with Elmore James, slide-player Boyd Gilmore (Elmore's cousin), and piano-player Moose John Walker; eventually forming a band to support his singing, as well as harp and guitar playing.

Still a teen, Rush donned a fake moustache to play in local juke joints with the band fascinated by enthusiasm of the crowds. His family relocated to Chicago in 1953 where he became part of the local blues scene in the following decade.[1]

It was in the early 1970s that his self-penned "Chicken Heads" cracked the Billboard R&B chart on Galaxy, after being picked up from a small label started by former Vee Jay Records producer, Calvin Carter (#34, 1971). He later recorded with leading black music label, Philadelphia International, releasing his first album, Rush Hour produced by Leon Huff, with one track, I Wanna Do The Do also charting in 1979 (#75).

In the early 1980s, he moved to Jackson, Mississippi, where he recorded a series of records for the LaJam label, Malaco's Waldoxy imprint, and in 2003, his own Deep Rush label with partner Greg Preston, a former Malaco Records executive. 2004's FolkFunk was a return to a more rootsier sound, featuring guitarist Alvin Youngblood Hart. He appeared in the film, The Road to Memphis which is part of the series The Blues, produced by Martin Scorsese. Rush was also a judge for the second annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.[2]

Rush received recognition for his music after the release of his 22nd album Rush, when he was awarded "Best Male Soul Blues Artist" at the Blues Music Awards. He also received "best acoustic artist" and "best acoustic album" for his album Raw. His album, Hoochie Mama was nominated for a Grammy award in the blues music section in 2000. His most recent albums are Show You A Good Time (2011) on Deep Rush and Down In Louisiana (2013) on Thirty Tigers.[1]

In 2013, Rush was nominated for a Blues Music Award in the 'Soul Blues Male Artist' category.[3]

Music] Almost Famous by David Chilton June 17, 2004 Jackson Free Press

In a 50-plus year career, he’s recorded well over 20 albums, one with Philly Soul legends Gamble and Huff. Last year he starred in one of the films in the Martin Scorcese-produced series “The Blues.” He’s won a stack of Living Blues awards and grabbed a Grammy nomination for an album made when he was nearly 60. Even soul-gospel greats The Staple Singers have done one of his songs. In the past two months he’s played in eight states and Canada, and the next couple months will see him hitting a chunk of Europe.

So why the hell isn’t Bobby Rush famous?

His new album “Folk Funk” will hopefully change all that. Backed by Grammy-nominated hotshot guitarist Alvin Youngblood Hart (who, despite having four albums and 40 years under his belt, is still referred to as “that young kid”), Steve Johnson on bass, and Charlie Jenkins on drums, Rush has honed his folk blues sound down to the core. Rush’s signature harmonica is given extra room to breathe in the spare production done by Rush himself and his Deep Rush label partner Greg Preston, an ex-Malaco executive.

By the 1980s, too much of the live and recorded blues music began to feel stifled and worn-out by repetition and imitation. People were so obsessed with the form of the music, the traditional “my baby left me” of it, that they couldn’t treat it as a living, breathing, bloody, boozy art form, the very source of its power. Without the flexibility of humor and mistakes and whimsy, the blues got as clumsy as Beethoven in the hands of a pre-teen at a Sunday piano recital. For all the accolades they get for “reviving” the blues, dreary purists like Eric Clapton or Jeff Beck only succeeded in jamming the art form into a freezer box, to be thawed out come never.

Rush has always refused those conventions. His songs overlap and run together the same way the notes jump out of his harmonica. You’ll be certain that one song is gonna be “the Delta one,” but then a funk riff gets snuck in on the side, and you don’t know what it is. Then the tune you’re sure is going to be “the jazzy Chicago one” is shattered by a harp solo into a whole other style. In Rush’s hands, the blues aren’t a defined art form, but an improvisational and almost palpable emotion that changes as it wants. You can almost hear him grinning behind it all, too, which is unheard of for the purists.

”Saints Gotta Move” opens with a harmonica riff on “When the Saints Go Marching In,” but Rush distorts the song into a traditional blues stomp that’s exactly what you would want to hear at 1 in the morning at 930, your back soaked with sweat and jammed up against the bar. It’s an effortless highlight on an album filled with them, from the dusty roots vibe of “Uncle Esau”,a song Bobby learned from his father,to “Chicken Heads-Refried,” the reprise of Rush’s first big hit, back in 1971 for the Galaxy label. “Chicken Heads” has a slow, loopy groove with a slightly distorted vocal floating behind it, like an AM station that’s barely fuzzing in and out, and it’s a fitting tribute to the longevity of the blues as popular art form. It’s rare that a 30-year-old song might still sound fresh today, but in Bobby Rush’s hands, the blues are a living, breathing, fighting creature that’s still viable in the 21st century.


  • 1979 Rush Hour (Philadelphia Intl)
  • 1982 Sue (La Jam)
  • 1984 Gotta Have Money (La Jam)
  • 1985 What's Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander (La Jam)
  • 1990 Man Can Give It But He Can't Take It (La Jam)
  • 1991 I Ain't Studdin' You (Urgent)
  • 1992 Handy Man (Urgent)
  • 1995 She's a Good 'Un (It's Alright)
  • 1995 One Monkey Don't Stop No Show (Waldoxy)
  • 1996 Wearing It Out (La Jam)
  • 1997 It's Alright, Vol. 2
  • 1997 Lovin' a Big Fat Woman (Waldoxy)
  • 1999 Rush Hour... Plus (Philadelphia Intl)
  • 1999 The Best Of Bobby Rush (La Jam)
  • 2000 Hoochie Man (Waldoxy)
  • 2003 Undercover Lover (Deep Rush)
  • 2003 Live at Ground Zero DVD + CD (Deep Rush)
  • 2004 Folkfunk (Deep Rush)
  • 2005 Night Fishin (Deep Rush)
  • 2006 Essential Recordings, Volume 1 (Deep Rush)
  • 2006 Essential Recordings, Volume 2 (Deep Rush)
  • 2007 Raw (Deep Rush)
  • 2008 Look At What You Gettin' (Deep Rush)
  • 2009 Blind Snake (Deep Rush)[4]
  • 2011 Show You A Good Time (Deep Rush)
  • 2013 Down in Louisiana (Thirty Tigers)

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