Lowell Fulson is one of the great forgotten in the history of the blues - it matters little that a young Ray Charles debuted in his band or that his songs were recorded by legends such as B.B. King, Elvis Presley and Otis Redding - today few remember this excellent singer, guitarist and songwriter, who was one of the leading lights of West Coast blues and its later flirtations with soul. Taking advantage of the fact that this March 31 Fulson would have been 100 years old, Guitars Exchange want to pay tribute by talking about our 10 favourite songs from his remarkable repertoire.
Three O'Clock Blues (1948)
When Fulson recorded this song, written by him and recorded in June 1946, few could imagine that here was one of the great classics of blues history. But in this duet with his brother Martin on second guitar was everything that makes the genre great, being a kind of desperate suicide note in which Fulson expresses himself with mastery on both voice and guitar. The song took two years to be released, at a time when Fulson was already fully integrated into the West Coast sound with a complete band, but its strength was such that it became his first hit, reaching the sixth spot on the R&B charts. Of course, everyone remembers it for B.B. King's excellent version of it in 1951, being the song on which the career of the genre's most important guitarist was built.
Everyday I Have the Blues (1950)
Of course, that wasn't the last time the King of the Blues dug into Fulson's repertoire. The fact is that Everyday I Have The Blues, one of the songs most strongly associated with King, was a hit for the first time in 1950 in Lowell Fulson's version on his mythical Gibson ES-5, reaching number 3 on the R&B charts, in a song that would become part of his repertoire and that he would play a number of times live when the young Ray Charles started playing in his band in the early 50s. Fulson's brilliant adaptation of Memphis Slim's Nobody Loves Me is, quite simply, immortal.
Blue Shadows (1950)
1950 was the best year of Fulson's career, so it is logical that it was in that year that he recorded his biggest hit, this colossal Blue Shadows that climbed to the top of the R&B charts, although his guitar is in the background, leaving the instrumental focus to the saxophone and, above all, to the piano of the great Lloyd Glenn. Of course, Fulson's unmistakable voice is the one that provides all the feeling.
Lonesome Christmas (I & II) (1950)
Split into two parts as an A-side and B-side single, here is further proof of Fulson's magical year, the wonderful vintage of 1950. Lloyd Glenn composes and returns to piano for this Christmas classic, though it's a lonely, melancholy Christmas, as it should be for someone with the blues. The band sounds deluxe, which is understandable for someone who always took great care in choosing his musicians, having among his ranks such luminaries as the aforementioned Ray Charles, Lloyd Glenn, saxophonist Stanley Turrentine or Ike Turner himself.
Low Society Blues (1950)
An instrumental to the greater glory of Fulson's excellent band, again approaching the frontier where blues and jazz meet; both Fulson on guitar and Glenn on piano have moments of brilliance, although on this occasion it may be the saxophonist who has the most inspired moment. A true delight.
I'm a Night Owl (I & II) (1951)
Another great song that had to be split to fit on both sides of a single; a single that put Fulson back in the Top Ten in 1951. Again it bears Glenn's signature, tinkering between blues and jazz, and again sounding like a lonely dawn in a speakeasy laden with tobacco smoke and high-proof booze.
Reconsider Baby (1954)
In 1954 Fulson left Swing Time and signed with Checker, one of the subsidiaries of the legendary Chess label. The first thing he recorded for his new label, on September 24, 1954, was another of his undisputed classics, Reconsider Baby, a song in which he shone again on guitar, as well as on vocals, opening with one of his best solos. The lyrics talk about a breakup that will end at a bar in the wee hours of the morning, with the protagonist sharing his sorrows with the bartender: "So long, oh, I hate to see you go, And the way that I will miss you I guess you will never know...". It may be Fulson's best remembered song, present in both the Blues and Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, and with countless versions by artists such as Bobby Bland, Ike & Tina Turner, Freddie King, Joe Bonamassa, Eric Clapton and Gregg Allman, although, obviously, the best known (and the best) is the one performed by Elvis Presley in 1960, shortly after returning from military service.
You're Gonna Miss Me (1957)
Despite his first two hits for Checker, the above song and Loving You in 1955, the rest of his career with the label was not as successful. But, in spite of everything, the quality did not drop in the slightest, as exemplified by this great song, slow-cooked, which he recorded in 1957 and released as a single along with another original song as Don't Drive Me Baby. Although it was not one of his greatest hits Fulson would continue to play this piece in his live repertoire throughout his career, including in the year 1963 from which we have recovered one of the few performances of the time on video, in which he can still be seen with his ES-5.
Black Nights (1965)
A change of record company was great for Lowell Fulson, who knew how to adapt perfectly to the times. Ten years after his last hit, Fulson entered the charts again with this great song, Black Nights, in which we can appreciate that Fulson had been able to combine blues with the nascent soul and a wonderful horn section.
But his most remembered song from his soul period is this classic called Tramp. Fulson with funk drums and a simple but totally effective riff on his brand new Gibson ES-335, the guitar that would accompany him for the rest of his career, launches into a torrent of vocals. His solo on this song is one of the most representative of his career, clean and uncluttered, warm and accessible. The song climbed to number five in the R&B charts, but that same year an even more successful version appeared, the splendid duet between Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, which was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.