Interview with Bobby Rush

My love for Bobby Rush has been widely documented.  My love for him runs deep.  It wasn’t long after I moved to Macon that I saw Bobby Rush play one of the most revered venues in Blues history, Adam’s Lounge.  Adam’s Lounge is closed now, boarded up after 97 year-old George Adams passed away a few years back.  I put in real time there. I went there alone, and shared moonshine and catfish with George more times than I can count.  My good friend Bill Lucado introduced me to the place, and told me about it’s history, but the first time I witnessed what he was talking about was when Bobby Rush took the stage there.  Raucous is the word that comes to mind. There was no AC, it was packed.  The crowd was mostly black, except for the few white people Bill and I brought to the show.  There are no stage lights, just a light bulb above the stage, and a star in white shag carpet where James Brown stood, BB King, Bobby Bland, Clarence Carter, and anyone who is anyone in the Soul and Blues world.  When the show started, two beautiful ladies flanked Bobby Rush and well, right there in that dark room, filled with illegal booze and sweat and the smell of corn meal and perfume, he put on the best show I’ve ever seen. That was 10 years ago.  I just saw him in Nashville a few weeks back and this 83 year old still has it.  He blew Americana Fest away, and his new album Porcupine Meat is the best blues album put out this year, if not this decade.  Run out and get it, and run and get your ticket to this show November 5 at The Capitol.  I will be front and center.

Bobby! It’s an honor to talk to you sir. I actually met you a few weeks back at Americana Fest in Nashville. 

Bobby Rush at Americana Fest in Nashville, 2016
Bobby Rush at Americana Fest in Nashville, 2016

Oh yeah man. I remember.  I gave you a shout out on stage.  I remember you guys.  I bent over backwards to do this interview because I appreciate you falling into this record so much. I ain’t going to forget that man!

I got to tell you. I get stopped on the street a lot to talk about this new station.  And the first thing most of them mention is “Porcupine Meat.”  It’s kind of become our theme song.
(Laughs)  I think we gonna sell this show out, what do you think Brad?  I think we gonna do it!

I want to go back to your early life. Tell me about growing up. First off all, my name is Bobby Rush, I was born in Louisiana.  I moved to Arkansas with my daddy, who was a preacher and a pastor of a church.  In the early ‘50s I moved to Chicago and started recording.  And man, as there been a lot of recording since then. I’ve recorded 377 records since that day.

I wan to remind our readers that you’re a young 83 years old. Do you remember that first record?
Sock It Too Me Boogaloo was the first one. B Side was Things I used to be.  That was close to 60 years ago.

You spent a lot of those early years on the Chitlin Circuit.  The first time I saw you was at Adam’s Lounge.  I’ll never forget it. You had on these bright blue pants and a big ‘ole belt buckle.  And you had those two dancers with you. I’d never seen anything like it.
Ha ha. I bet you hadn’t Brad.

Well, I somehow worked my way back to your dressing room, right off that main room.  And you came in after the show.  It was all hot in there. There was no AC.  And you brushed up against me. You were sweaty so I reached up to wipe your sweat off me, and you grabbed my hand and said “Hey! Don’t wipe that off, that’s Bobby Rush Sweat.”
Man, you killin’ me.  I don’t remember that episode, but I remember that show. And that sure enough sounds like me.  I also remember those pants. But you know back in the day, everybody came through Adam’s Lounge.  If you were an entertainer for black audiences back then. You played Adam’s.  BB King, Junior Parker, Bobby Blue Bland. Everybody came through there. When you told me in Nashville that you saw me at Adam’s Lounge I knew you was the real deal man.  I knew I loved you.  And you were a kid back then. Would you have thought back there, at Adam’s Lounge that night, you’d be here, owning a radio station, playing Bobby Rush songs?

Man, I got to say it feels like destiny, Bobby.
You guys made a friend with me.  Just like that night, I think Nashville thought ya’ll were part of the show.  It was such a friendly thing, how we met, and I felt ya’lls love.  That’s what it’s all about.

Tell me about how you write a song. I feel like you are one of those artists that no one can cover.  A Bobby Rush Song, is a Bobby Rush Song.   Well, I just write about what I know Brad. What I see. And what I talk about.  I’m a country boy, and I talk country talk.  That’s what I write about.  Most of the time, I write when I’m alone.  A lot of good things come along when I’m driving. I always try to write in a fun way, so you can laugh about.

Tell me about “Porcupine Meat.”
That came to me about 35 years ago.  It’s been in my head a long time. It’s like, you in love with someone, and they won’t love you back.  You want to leave but you can’t.  You should leave but you won’t leave.  That’s porcupine meat.  It’s too fat to eat. You four guys. I enjoyed you so much when I was on the stage.  I’d say “Too Fat to Eat” and ya’ll yell “To lean to throw away.”  Man that was a fun show. (Laughs) I enjoyed that.

One central theme in your songs is women.  Tell me about that? I’m a married man.  It’s a show. This is show business. Not a singing business, or a playing business, this is show business. I’m one of the last with a real show. I say some funny things, some are true some aren’t. But they probably happened to somebody. And that’s why people relate to the music.

screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-2-34-42-pmPlease give us a Muddy Waters story.
I have a thousand of those.  Muddy was having his 33 year old birthday party. He invited me. I’m 20-21 years old.  I was playing Walters Corner. We were on the west side of Chicago.  I got there a little late.  He called me Blood.  When I got there he said “Blood, I been waiting on you.” He was sitting there with about 4-5 nice little ladies upstairs. They was half naked.  I asked one how old she was, and one of them said they was 35, and one said they was 39.  You know what I did,  I turned around and snuck out the back door.  They was way too old for me. I think about that today, they would be young today!

Another thing is that you’ve been able to maintain a black audience.  I think that I’m about the only one left. I’ve crossed over. I haven’t crossed out. And I think about that when I’m recording. I say what I want to say. I don’t think about trying to say something in a way the white people want to hear it anymore than I think about tyring to say things in a way the black people want to hear it. I just am who I am.  I’m Bobby Rush.

Yes Sir, You are. 

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