Photos by Arnie Goodman
Is Bobby Rush the current King of the Blues? During the 1980s he earned the title “King of the Chitlin Circuit” while living in Jackson, MS. Respectfully taking on his father’s name as his stage name, teenager Bobby Rush used a fake mustache to play at local juke joints and on the road with the likes of Elmore James, John Walker and Boyd Gilmore.
Now, at 83 he is older than Buddy Guy and Little Richard, so he got a nice laugh when he claimed the title of “Ugliest Bluesman Alive.” With Bobby were Lou Rodriguez on guitar, Fredrick Taylor on keyboard, Bruce Howard on drums (for 38 years), Arthur Cooper on bass (18 years), Kenneth Kyte on guitar, and dancers Loretta Wright and Mizz Lowe.
Bobby is a consummate entertainer, mesmerizing on stage. Combining his singing ability with harmonica playing and storytelling and a masterful sense of stage presence, Rush’s warmth and welcoming nature on and off stage makes each person in the audience feel as if Rush is performing for—and sharing the fun with—them personally.
The B.B. King’s show started with some great old songs including “She So Fine,” “Evil,” “You, You, You,” “Garbage Man,” “I Ain’t Spending” and “Crazy About You.” Bobby Rush’s new CD, Porcupine Meat, is named after one of the tracks that compares porcupine meat to a woman who doesn’t treat you right but won’t let you have anyone else. That makes her “too fat to eat, too lean to throw away” just like real porcupine meat. Folks from Rounder Records, which released his new album, introduced the CD. The group played the title song as well as “Funk O’De Funk” which puts funk into the blues, “I Don’t Want Nobody Hanging Around” and “Me, Myself and I.” “Got Me Accused,” also from the new album, tells a tale of the racial injustice that infects our society, and is inspired by events in Bobby Rush’s life.
Rush began to sing some of his older hits and, inspired by the response, asked for a chair so that he could play guitar while singing. After a few solo numbers, the band joined in and played to a standing and cheering audience who appreciated another performance from one of the greatest bluesmen performing today.