Bobby Rush (musician)

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Bobby Rush
Bobby Rush 1999.jpg
Rush in 1999
Background information
Birth nameEmmett Ellis Jr.
Born (1933-11-10) November 10, 1933 (age 85)
Homer, Louisiana, United States
OriginPine Bluff, Arkansas, United States
GenresBlues, electric blues, soul, R&B, funk, disco, acoustic blues, soul-blues[1]
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, harmonica
Years active1951–present

Bobby Rush (born November 10, 1933) is a Grammy Award-winning[2] American blues musician, composer and singer.[1] His style incorporates elements of blues, rap and funk.


Born Emmett Ellis, Jr. in Homer, Louisiana, Rush was the son of Emmett and Mattie Ellis.[3] 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 sugarcane syrup bucket and a broom-wire diddley bow. Around 1947, 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, the slide player Boyd Gilmore (James's cousin), and the piano player Johnny "Big Moose" Walker; eventually forming a band to support his singing and harmonica 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] In Chicago he met and befriended his neighbor, Muddy Waters, and began working for Jimmy Reed. Through these connections he began performing on a circuit with Etta James, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Jimmy Reed.

In the early 1970s a song he wrote, "Chicken Heads", released by Galaxy, reached the Billboard R&B chart, after being picked up from a small label started by the former Vee Jay Records producer Calvin Carter (number 34, 1971). Rush later recorded with a leading label for black music, Philadelphia International, releasing his first album, Rush Hour, produced by Leon Huff, with one track, I Wanna Do the Do, also charting in 1979 (number 75). Chicken Heads would become Rush's first certified gold certified record in 1971, and would later re-enter the Billboard chart 30 years after its release as a result of its feature in the film Black Snake Moan.[4] Reviewing Rush Hour in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981), Robert Christgau wrote, "A lot of this is fun—I'm delighted to find Leon Huff collaborating with someone who's got funk in his soul, and heartened to hear a protest song about the problem of lost keys. But a lot of it—the witless 'Evil Is,' the characterless 'Hey, Western Union Man'—is dumber than Kenny Gamble."[5]

His next album to become gold certified would be “Sue” in 1981, and “Ain’t Studdin’ Ya” in 1991.[6] 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. One of the artists on the label is Crystal Springs, Mississippi native and former bandmate Dexter Allen. 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. As a result of the Scorsese film, Rolling Stone magazine named him "'King of the Chitlin' Circuit' because of his 50 years of relentless touring and colorful live show."[7] Rush was also a judge for the second annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.[8] He also performed at the White House along with James Brown when Bill Clinton went into office. In 2014 he again performed for Bill and Hillary Clinton for a state event in Arkansas.

In 2007, he became the first blues artist to perform in China, earning him the title “International Dean of the Blues.” He was later named Friendship Ambassador to the Great Wall of China after performing the largest concert ever held at that site.[9] In addition, Rush has toured in most major markets around the world, including Sydney, Australia; Paris, France; Tokyo, Japan; Shanghai, China; Johannesburg, South Africa; Berlin, Germany; Rome, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Lucerne, Switzerland; New York, New York; Chicago, Illinois; Memphis, Tennessee; Los Angeles, California; to Jackson, Mississippi.

He appears in the 2015 documentary film I Am the Blues.[10]

Awards and recognition[edit]

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 category in 2000. Rush has been awarded 17 blues music awards in his lifetime, and in 2006 he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.[11] In May 2015, Rush cut the ribbon for the Blues Hall of Fame, with an introduction by the Memphis Head of Tourism and aired live on local news.

In 2013, Rush was nominated for a Blues Music Award in the 'Soul Blues Male Artist' category.[12] In 2014, Rush's album Down in Louisiana, was Grammy-nominated for "Best Blues Album",[13] and won a Blues Music Award in the 'Soul Blues Album of the Year' category, whilst Rush was also nominated in two other categories.[14] Following 2014's Grammy nomination, Rush was nominated again for "Best Blues Album" in 2015 for Decisions, with Blinddog Smokin' and featuring Rock n' Roll Hall of Famer Dr. John.[15]

In July 2014, Rush performed with Dan Aykroyd one of James Brown's songs on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.[16]

In 2015, Rush won two Blues Music Awards in the 'Soul Blues Male Artist' and 'B.B. King Entertainer of the Year' categories.[17] On June 6, 2015 Rush was inducted into the Official Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame in Clarksdale, MS.

On February 12, 2017, at the age of 83, Rush won his first Grammy Award, in the category Best Traditional Blues Album, for Porcupine Meat.

On May 11, 2017 Rush won Blues Music Awards for Album of the Year for "Porcupine Meat" and for Historical Album of the Year for "Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History of Bobby Rush." These were the eleventh and twelfth Blues Music Awards Rush has been awarded by the Blues Foundation during his career.[18]


In 2018, a remix of Rush's song "Funk O'De Funk" by American electronic music duo Smle was nominated for Best Remixed Recording at the 60th Grammy Awards.[19] The rendition lost to Latroit's remix of Depeche Mode's "You Move".[20]



  • 1967 "Sock Boo Ga Loo" / "Much Too Much" (Checker)
  • 1968 "Camel Walk" / "Gotta Have Money" (ABC)
  • 1969 "Wake Up" / "The Things That I Used to Do" (Salem)
  • 1970 "Let It All Hang Out" / "Just Be Yourself/What Now" (Salem)
  • 1971 "Chicken Heads" / "Mary Jane" (Galaxy)
  • 1972 "Niki Hoeky" / "I Don’t Know (Jewel)
  • 1972 "Gotta Be Funky" / "Gotta Find You Girl" (On Top)
  • 1974 "Get It On with Me" / "It’s Alright" (Jewel)
  • 1974 "Get Out of Here Part 1" (Warner Bros.)
  • 1976 "I’m Still Waiting" / "She Put the Whammy on Me" (London)
  • 1979 "I Wanna Do the Do" (Philadelphia International)
  • 1979 "Let’s Do It Together" (Philadelphia International)
  • 1983 "Sue" (LaJam)
  • 1988 "A Man Can Give It (But He Can’t Take It)" (LaJam)
  • 1991 "I Ain't Studdin' You" (Urgent)
  • 1992 "I’m Gone" (Urgent)
  • 1992 "Time to Hit the Road Again" (Urgent)
  • 1992 "You, You, You (Know What to Do)" (Urgent)
  • 1995 "She's a Good 'Un (It's Alright)"
  • 1996 "Too Late, I’m Gone" (Waldoxy)
  • 1997 "Booga Bear" (Waldoxy)


  • 1979 Rush Hour (Philadelphia International)
  • 1981 Sue (LaJam)
  • 1983 Wearing It Out (LaJam)
  • 1984 Gotta Have Money (LaJam)
  • 1985 What's Good for the Goose Is Good for the Gander (LaJam)
  • 1988 A Man Can Give It (But He Can’t Take It) (LaJam)


  • 1983 Making a Decision (LaJam)
  • 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 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)
  • 2011 Show You a Good Time (Deep Rush)
  • 2013 Down in Louisiana (Thirty Tigers)[21][22]
  • 2014 Decisions (Silver Talon Records)
  • 2016 Porcupine Meat (Rounder Records)
  • 2019 Sitting On Top Of The Blues

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Ankeny, Jason. "Bobby Rush". Allmusic. Retrieved February 26, 2010.
  2. ^ "Blues for a cause — Buddy Guy, Bobby Rush unite for special night of music". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  3. ^ Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues: A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger. p. 308. ISBN 978-0313344237.
  4. ^ "Bobby Rush". Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  5. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: R". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 12, 2019 – via
  6. ^ "The Bobby Rush Bio - Bobby Rush | Bobby Rush". Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  7. ^ "Blue Movies: 'Martin Scorcese Presents the Blues'". Rolling Stone. October 2, 2003. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  8. ^ "Independent Music Awards". Independent Music Awards. Archived from the original on July 13, 2011. Retrieved 2014-05-16.
  9. ^ "Bobby Rush (1935–)". Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  10. ^ "Here Are 6 Must-See Music Films at Hot Docs". Exclaim!, April 19, 2016.
  11. ^ "Bobby Rush Master Blues Exhibit in the Blues Hall of Fame ®". November 10, 1935. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  12. ^ "Blues Music Awards Nominees – 2013 – 34th Blues Music Awards". Retrieved March 21, 2013.
  13. ^ "Grammys 2014: The complete list of nominees and winners". LA Times. January 26, 2014. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  14. ^ "2014 Blues Music Awards Nominees and Winners". Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  15. ^ Price, Diana (January 8, 2015). "2015 Grammy Awards: Nominees for Best Blues Album". AXS. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  16. ^ "Dan Aykroyd – Dan Aykroyd Opens Late Night Show With James Brown Tribute". Contact music. Retrieved July 20, 2014.
  17. ^ "2015 Blues Music Awards Winners". Archived from the original on May 19, 2015. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
  18. ^ "Here are Your 2017 Blues Music Awards Winners". American Blues Scene. May 11, 2017. Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  19. ^ "Live Electronic Acts Thrive & Indie Dance Arrives in 2018 Grammy Nominations". Billboard. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  20. ^ Staff, Variety (January 28, 2018). "Grammy Awards Winners: The Complete List". Variety. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  21. ^ "Bobby Rush: Discography". November 10, 1940. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  22. ^ "Bobby Rush: Down in Louisiana Review". Guitarhoo!. March 30, 2013. Retrieved December 31, 2014.

External links[edit]