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FULSON, LOWELL (1921-1999)

Born on March 31, 1921, in Tulsa to parents of Choctaw and African American descent, blues musician Lowell Fulson grew up around Ada, Oklahoma, where his grandfather played violin and two of his uncles played guitar. Fulson played in church and at picnics as a boy and in Ada clubs as a teenager. During military service from 1943 to 1945 he learned of the music scene in Oakland, California, and moved there in 1946. That year he recorded "Cryin' Blues" and "You're Going to Miss Me When I'm Gone," including his brother, Martin Fulson, on guitar. In 1947 Fulson recorded the rhythm-and-blues (R&B) hit "Three O'Clock Blues." He moved to Los Angeles in 1949 where he recorded "Everyday I Have the Blues," which rose to Number Five on the rhythm and blues (R&B) charts. During this period his addition of a horn section to the standard electric blues combo of bass, guitar, and drums defined the West Coast "uptown blues" sound.

Fulson also had hits with "Blue Shadows" (Number One) and "Lonesome Christmas" (Number Seven) in 1950. In 1954 he released "Reconsider Baby" (Number Three), later to become a blues standard covered by Elvis Presley and Eric Clapton. In 1967 he had his final R&B hits with "Make a Little Love" and "Tramp." His 1988 Rounder Records album, It's a Good Day, garnered high critical praise. In the 1990s Fulson recorded for Bullseye Records in his familiar style, and in 1993 he received five W. C. Handy Awards and was inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame. His 1996 album, Them Update Blues (Rounder), was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Traditional Blues category. He died near Seal Beach, California, on March 6, 1999.

SEE ALSO: AFRICAN AMERICANS, ELVIN BISHOP, BLUES, CHARLIE CHRISTIAN.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Hugh W. Foley, Jr., "Jazz from Muskogee, Oklahoma: Eastern Oklahoma as a Hearth of Musical Culture" (Ph.D. diss., Oklahoma State University, 2000). Austin Sonnier, A Guide to the Blues (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994).

Hugh W. Foley, Jr.

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