Blind Boy Fuller – Complete Recorded Works 1935 – 1940 Vol 1 (23rd September 1935 to 29th April 1936)
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Blind Boy Fuller
Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order 23 July 1935 – 19 June 1940
Vol.1: 23 July 1935 to 29 April 1936
Featuring the recordings of:
Blind Boy Fuller, vocal / guitar. Blind Boy Fuller, vocal / guitar; Blind Gary Davis, guitar added on 6, 7, 8; Bull City Red, washboard.
Genres: Blues, Country Blues, North Carolina Blues, Piedmont Blues, Piedmont Guitar, Country Blues Guitar, Bottleneck-slide Guitar, Ragtime Guitar, National Guitar
Abridged from this albums original booklet notes. During the course of his five years of recording, Blind Boy Fuller produced 129 separate master titles. In addition to these, there are five reported alternative takes that were issued on 78s, and five unissued alternates from the 1935 and 1936 sessions that were recently issued on Columbia/Legacy CK 46777. While we are indeed fortunate that Fuller was recorded in such depth, what is perhaps most striking about this body of work is how little repetition it contains. With the assistance of his manager, J.B. Long, Fuller constructed a recording career that was competitive with such popular blues artists as Big Bill Broonzy, Tampa Red, and Peetie Wheatstraw while carefully avoiding the pitfalls of a successful recording formula. Though not a guitar virtuoso on a par with Gary Davis, or a vocalist with the expressive warmth of Blind Willie McTell, Fuller was nonetheless a versatile and highly skilled player and a singer of subtle abilities. These are qualities that have kept his recordings a fresh listening experience more than fifty years after his last session. In 1927, Blind Boy Fuller Fuller and his wife, Cora Mae, moved to Winston-Salem, and in 1929 they moved again, this time to Durham. Sometime after this they relocated to Danville, Virginia for a time, but essentially they lived in Durham after 1929. There, he concentrated on music as a livelihood and with the help of the Welfare Department was granted permission by the police to perform music in a designated place on the streets of Durham. It was probably at such a designated place that Fuller ran into J.B. Long, who was at that time a freelance scout of sorts for the American Record Corporation. Long auditioned Fuller and obtained for him a contract with ARC. In July 1935 Fuller, Gary Davis and Bull City Red (George Washington) travelled to New York for their first recording sessions. Davis, who was 39 at the time of the session (Fuller had just turned 28) was the senior musician in more than age and may well have been the musician for whom Long has the greatest expectations. Bruce Bastin (in his earlier overview of east-coast blues: Crying For The Carolines) first pointed to Gary Davis as perhaps the primary influence on Fuller. Davis was certainly the most proficient guitarist in Durham at the time, and even if his influence was indirect, it would still have been great. Davis himself stated that he had taught Fuller and that he would have been all right if I kept him under me long enough. Contemporary Durham bluesmen Willie Trice and Baby Tate have attested that Davis indeed taught Fuller to play in the key of A. To be fair to Fuller, though, his real genius rested not on his originality but on his ability to absorb a multitude of influences and shape them into a coherent whole. Even given the existence of Davis later recordings (a fair portion of which are secular), it is difficult to correlate the bulk of Blind Boy Fullers catalogue with that of Gary Davis. At the July 23 1935 session, Gary Davis was the first to record, and the two stunning blues he performed (Im Throwin Up My Hands in the key of A, and Cross and Evil Woman Blues in the key of E see Document DOCD-5060) are benchmarks against which the rest of the blues of the 1935 sessions must be measured. There have been several speculations about the cause of the friction between Gary Davis and J.B. Long at the sessions, but it probably resulted primarily from Davis insistence on recording religious material. Long appears to have been looking for commercial blues product and, having already obtained two strong blues numbers from Davis, he would most likely have balked at Davis determination to record sanctified songs. Gary Davis sang no more blues at the sessions and a few years later Long failed to persuade him to record again. This left a vacuum which Blind Boy Fuller wasted no time filling. His three tracks from July 23 are all strong commercial blues and apparently, once he realised he was no longer in competition with Davis he relaxed considerably as he generated nine other titles over the next three days. Recording supervisor Art Satherly thought highly of Davis guitar abilities and probably was instrumental in convincing him to accompany Fuller on several titles. The results, particularly on Rag, Mama, Rag where Davis subtly driving bass lines and Bull City Reds propulsive washboard allowed Fuller to scale new heights, were breathtaking. Perhaps Satherly worked out a compromise with Davis, because on July 25, after accompanying Fuller on two titles, Davis was allowed to record four religious pieces. At that point, eleven blues titles had already been cut, so there was little risk in pacifying Davis. The next day Davis recorded nine more religious titles completing his remarkable pre-war output in a scant four days. J.B. Longs commercial instincts were borne out as none of Gary Davis records appears to have sold in any quantity (based on their rarity in comparison with Blind Boy Fullers 78s). Fuller concluded the four day session with Log Cabin Blues (a remake of Blind Willie McTells Come On Around To My House Mama), and one of his rarely recorded bottleneck pieces: Homesick And Lonesome Blues. Long and ARC should have been quite satisfied with the results of these sessions as they had produced twelve blues by Blind Boy Fuller, eight blues by Bull City Red, and two blues and thirteen religious titles by Gary Davis.Ken Romanowski Copyright 1992: Document Records