Bobby Rush signs to Rounder Records

Bobby Rush, 82, may win over new fans with the release of his new album. PHOTO BY RICK OLIVER

New album slated for Sept. 16 release

The Mississippi Link Newswire

Bobby Rush, 82, may win over new fans with the release of his new album. PHOTO BY RICK OLIVER
Bobby Rush, 82, may win over new fans with the release of his new album. PHOTO BY RICK OLIVER

Naming one’s album after a song titled “Porcupine Meat” may seem a little unusual – unless, of course, you’re Bobby Rush, who earned his first gold record in 1971 with a hit titled “Chicken Heads.”

He elaborates on his recent composition by saying, “If a lady won’t treat me right, but she doesn’t want anyone else to have me, that is hard to digest.” Hence the lyric, “too fat to eat, too lean to throw away.”

Porcupine Meat is Rush’s debut release for Rounder Records, and one of the best recordings of his 60-plus year career. The album is due out Sept. 16.

Rush estimates that he has cut more than 300 songs since he first began making music. He has been honored with three Grammy nominations, as well as 10 Blues Music Awards and 41 nominations. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2006.

Make no mistake, Rush is not your typical octogenarian. At age 82, he exudes the energy of a 20-year-old, on the road for more than 200 dates a year. His hectic tour schedule has earned him the affectionate title King of the Chitlin’ Circuit. Rush has traveled the globe including Japan and Beirut. In 2007, he earned the distinction of being the first blues artist to play at the Great Wall of China.

His renowned stage act features his famed shake dancers, who personify his funky blues and the ribald humor that he has cultivated during the course of his storied career.

Born Emmet Ellis Jr. in Homer, La., he adopted the stage name Bobby Rush out of respect for his father, a pastor. During the mid-1950s, Rush relocated to Chicago to pursue his musical career and make a better life for himself. It was there that he started to work with Earl Hooker, Luther Allison and Freddie King, and sat in with many of his musical heroes, such as Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Willie Dixon and Little Walter.

Rush eventually began leading his own band in the 1960s. He also started to craft his own distinct style of funky blues and recorded a succession of singles for various small labels. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that Rush finally scored a hit with “Chicken Heads.” More recordings followed, including an album for Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International Label.

Rush relocated one final time to Jackson in the early 1980s. Since 2003, Rush has self-released the majority of his work (including the critically acclaimed Folk Funkalbum) on his Deep Rush label, but recently, he came to the realization that having a bigger record company behind him would be beneficial.

“I outgrew myself,” he says. “I need someone to help in doing the things I can’t do. When you are wearing all the hats, you can’t be everywhere at once.”

Enter producer and two-time Grammy winner Scott Billington, Rounder Records’ longtime VP of A&R. Billington first met Rush at a Recording Academy meeting 25 years ago, and they became fast friends. He has wanted to work with Rush ever since. “He is the most vital bluesman of his generation,” says Billington. He continues, “There are many people who still don’t know Bobby Rush, even though he is a hero in the parallel universe of the Chitlin’ Circuit – fans stop him on the street in Memphis and Helena and Little Rock.”

Porcupine Meat will not only please Rush’s older fans, but is likely to win over many new ones. Billington reflects, “We wanted to come up with something fresh, while staying 100 percent true to Bobby.”

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