Bobby Rush (musician)

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Bobby Rush
Birth name Emmett Ellis Jr.
Born (1933-11-10) November 10, 1933 (age 83)
Homer, Louisiana, United States
Origin Pine Bluff, Arkansas, United States
Genres Blues, electric blues, soul, R&B, funk, disco, acoustic blues, soul-blues[1]
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter
Instruments Vocals, guitar, harmonica
Years active 1951–present
Labels Various

Bobby Rush (born November 10, 1933) is an 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.[2] 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 Johnny "Big Moose" 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] 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.

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). Chicken Heads would become Rush's first 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.[3] His next album to become gold certified would be “Sue” in 1981, and “Ain’t Studdin’ Ya” in 1991.[4]

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."[5] Rush was also a judge for the second annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]

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 section 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.[9] 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.[10] In 2014, Rush's album Down in Louisiana, was Grammy-nominated for "Best Blues Album",[11] and won a Blues Music Award in the 'Soul Blues Album of the Year' category, whilst Rush was also nominated in two other categories.[12] 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.[13]

In July 2014, Rush performed with Dan Aykroyd one of James Brown's songs on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.[14]

In 2015, Rush won two Blues Music Awards in the 'Soul Blues Male Artist' and 'B.B. King Entertainer of the Year' categories.[15] 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, Bobby won his first Grammy Award in the Best Traditional Blues Album category for his album Porcupine Meat.



  • 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)[16][17]
  • 2014 Decisions (Silver Talon Records)
  • 2016 Porcupine Meat (Rounder Records)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Ankeny, Jason. "Bobby Rush". Allmusic. Retrieved February 26, 2010. 
  2. ^ Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 308. ISBN 978-0313344237. 
  3. ^ "Bobby Rush". Retrieved 2015-07-11. 
  4. ^ "The Bobby Rush Bio - Bobby Rush | Bobby Rush". Retrieved 2015-07-11. 
  5. ^ "Blue Movies: 'Martin Scorcese Presents the Blues'". Rolling Stone. 2003-10-02. Retrieved 2015-07-11. 
  6. ^ "Independent Music Awards". Independent Music Awards. Archived from the original on July 13, 2011. Retrieved 2014-05-16. 
  7. ^ "Bobby Rush (1935–)". Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Retrieved 2015-07-11. 
  8. ^ "Here Are 6 Must-See Music Films at Hot Docs". Exclaim!, April 19, 2016.
  9. ^ "Bobby Rush Master Blues Exhibit in the Blues Hall of Fame ®". 1935-11-10. Retrieved 2015-07-11. 
  10. ^ "Blues Music Awards Nominees – 2013 – 34th Blues Music Awards". Retrieved 2013-03-21. 
  11. ^ "Grammys 2014: The complete list of nominees and winners". LA Times. 2014-01-26. Retrieved 2015-07-11. 
  12. ^ "2014 Blues Music Awards Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2014-05-16. 
  13. ^ Price, Diana (2015-01-08). "2015 Grammy Awards: Nominees for Best Blues Album". AXS. Retrieved 2015-07-11. 
  14. ^ "Dan Aykroyd – Dan Aykroyd Opens Late Night Show With James Brown Tribute". Contact music. Retrieved 2014-07-20. 
  15. ^ "2015 Blues Music Awards Winners". Retrieved 2015-05-18. 
  16. ^ "Bobby Rush | Discography". AllMusic. November 10, 1940. Retrieved 2014-05-16. 
  17. ^ "Bobby Rush : Down in Louisiana Review". Guitarhoo!. March 30, 2013. Retrieved December 31, 2014. 

External links[edit]