Blind Boy Fuller, Ragtime Blues Hero
Who Was Blind Boy Fuller?
Think there couldn’t be any more influential blues musicians with “blind” in their name? You were so wrong. Blind Boy Fuller was from North Carolina, and one of the most prominent Piedmont Blues players of his day.
Piedmont Blues was a style of music played in rural America, that on the guitar required the player to play the bass notes with their thumb and the melody with their fingers. Fuller, born sometime in 1904 or 1907, lived a short life until 1941, dying in only his mid thirties.
What did Blind Boy Fuller mean to the Blues?
Like many others growing up poor in the American south during the early 20th century, Fuller lost his eyesight from a disease he had as a teenager. When starting to play music, Blind Boy Fuller was inspired by musicians such as Blind Blake and the Reverend Gary Davis, and he began to develop a local following in the area of Durham, North Carolina. In 1935 he managed to get his first recording session with the American Recording Company, and throughout his career recorded over 120 tracks on a variety of different record labels.
The style of music that Blind Boy Fuller played was firmly in the realm of the Blues, but his recordings heavily incorporate ragtime, producing a fusion of jazz and blues with a combination of traditional tunes and contemporary songs. His repertoire often included examples of double-entendre, or as they were known, hokum songs. This originated in minstrel shows in the 19th century but was subsequently incorporated into blues music as well as country, jazz and many other derivations of American popular music.
Which songs are Blind Boy Fuller known for?
The recordings that are most notable from Blind Boy Fuller’s career include ”Truckin’ My Blues Away”, from where the phrase, “carry on truckin’” seems to have originated from. As well as this, he also recorded “Get Your Ya Yas Out”, which later inspired the title of a live album by the Rolling Stones, and “Rag Mama Rag”, which was popularised by a cover by The Band.
After Blind Boy Fuller’s death in 1941 from an internal infection, his influence remained in the works of his contemporaries and admirers. The career of Sonny Terry, one of the top blues harp players of all time, launched parallel to Fuller’s, Terry being one of his early admirers from the beginning. His death also saw musician and protege to Fuller, Brownie McGhee, release a record entitled “The Death of Blind Boy Fuller” as a tribute. Later, McGhee was encouraged by his label to perform as “Blind Boy Fuller No.2” to work off of the late musician’s popularity in a commercial sense.
To this day, the recordings left behind by the late great Blind Boy Fuller remain as a prime example of ragtime and Piedmont Blues, with the innuendo of his hokum style regaining its sharp edged wit, even to the present day.
If you’re a fan of the blues, a player or simply a listener, come along to our jam at Northern Soul on Fridays and Tuesdays! Free entry!