REG was proud to present Bobby Rush as a headliner at the Blues at the Moon Festival in Philadelphia, MS.
At a time when most of his contemporaries are resting on their laurels, Bobby Rush — a 50-year veteran of the stage — continues to be one of the most exciting and creative artists in the R&B/blues arena. Rush's live shows are without parallel, replete with costume changes and comedic sketches acted out with the assistance of his lovely female dancers.
In addressing matters of the heart (among other body parts...), Rush adopts various onstage personalities — the adoring lover, the cuckold, the boastful stud — all delivered with a knowing wink, a killer band, and a million-megawatt smile. Rush's jesting and double entendré jiving are at the heart of the blues, a nod to forbears such as Charley Patton, Memphis Minnie, Louis Jordan, and Howlin' Wolf.
Bobby Rush — it's pronounced as one three-syllable name — calls his music "folk funk," an apt description for a blend that's both modern and deeply rooted in tradition. Over the decades, he has consistently updated his show by incorporating new styles — jump blues, Chicago style deep blues, soul, funk, and even hip-hop — into a fresh mix. At the same time, his original compositions often stem from his folk wisdom, as exemplified by songs like "What's Good for the Goose Is Good for the Gander Too."
Born in northern Louisiana, Rush built his first instrument, a primitive guitar or "diddly bow," and in his early teens he was donning a fake mustache and appearing at local juke joints as a solo artist. In the mid-50's, he moved to Chicago, where his bandmates included Freddie King, Earl Hooker, and Luther Allison. On jaunts back to his family home in Pine Bluff, AR, he performed with Elmore James and Boyd Gilmore.
Rush began working as a bandleader after realizing that he could control his own destiny if he owned all the equipment. His entrepreneurial flair is legendary among fellow musicians, who fondly recall his working in disguise as the emcee on his own gigs, earning double pay from an unknowing club owner, and his juggling three gigs a night with separate bands at West Side nightclubs.
He achieved national acclaim in 1971 following the success of his hit "Chicken Heads". Over the next decade, he recorded for several labels and toured widely on the "chitlin' circuit," the network of R&B nightclubs between east Texas, north Florida, and Chicago.
In 2003, Rush fulfilled his longtime dream of forming his own label, Deep Rush, recording the CD Undercover Lover and capturing the magic of his live show on DVD. Rush's showmanship is also featured in Richard Pearce's documentary The Road to Memphis, broadcast on PBS as part of Martin Scorsese's film series The Blues.
Recently, Rush has gained new audiences through performances at the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and on festival stages in Europe and Japan. But catch him on an average weekend and he's just as likely to be playing to packed houses in nightclubs in places like Nesbit, Macon, and Smackover with mostly black, working-class audiences.
Success in the American music marketplace generally entails leaving behind the people who sustained you during your early years, but that's not a price Bobby Rush is willing to pay. As his career takes off in new directions, he's determined to keep it real, presenting the same unadulterated show as he moves from Tokyo to West Memphis. Or as he explains, "I want to cross over, not cross out."