We’re highlighting this archived interview because Bobby Rush is coming to play at Legends on April 26th. Get your tickets here!
interviewed by Dan Hack during the Chicago Bluesfest 2013.
DH: We have the wonderful, beautiful man Bobby Rush talking to us live at Blues Fest 2013. Bobby, thanks for agreeing to see us and talk to us. Tell us a little bit about your history here in Chicago.
BR: Well Dan, I’m glad to say something about Bobby Rush. First of all, my name is Bobby Rush I’ve been recordin’ this year for 59 and a half years. That’s a long time. I have 249 records, I came to Chicago in 1951, I lived right here for 47 years. So man, I’ve been around the world and back again!
[pullquote]BR: Ah yeah, when I come to Chicago, Freddie King was in my band.[/pullquote]
DH: Do you remember any of your favorite clubs here in Chicago?
BR: Ah yeah, when I come to Chicago, Freddie King was in my band.
DH: Freddie was in your band?
BR: Ah yeah, we were called Bobby Rush and the Four Jivers. Course now, I didn’t meet Buddy till he came here in 1957, he was coming over to a place over on Madison Street called Curly’s. Buddy had a place in the wall he played every night, he kicked a hole in the wall, so we knew the place by the hole in the wall that Buddy Guy put. You know what though, I’m so glad to be a part of the Chicago scene of the blues because I wasn’t born in Chicago. I was born in a place called Homer, Louisiana. As far as the club Legends, I respect Buddy and a lot of people, but particularly Buddy because he solely owns and operates his own business. He has a fine business, he’s a fine guitar player, a fine singer, and he loves some Bobby Rush because he do one of my songs every night.
DH: Which one is that?
BR: Chicken Heads, and I just love that. He’s a good guy.
DH: So this 2012 record you put out, what was the title?
BR: Down in Louisiana. I recorded it in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s a fine record, it’s something we designed it to get the old Louisiana out of me and put back on a record so here it is.
DH: Tell us about your favorite guitar. You use the same one your whole career or you change it up?
BR: I change it up. When I started out playin the old Kay bass, what have you, but then Silvertone. I’m an old man, then I went to the Gibson, but now I’m playing Fender. I’m playing a Stratocaster, I fell in love with it, I fell in love with the sound, but I do a lot of acoustic dates. When I do my acoustic dates, I do a lot of the Fender, because I do acoustic Fender. It’s plugged, but it’s unplugged.
DH: What are some of your favorite songs to play acoustic?
BR: I’ll do pretty much the things that I do when I do with the whole band, because my story- I’m a storyteller. And if I’m doing Night Fishing, I tell the story. If I’m doing Sue, I still tell the story. When I’m with the band or without the band, got the girls, without the girls, my story is pretty much the same. I’m a storyteller. What you see is what you get.
DH: What are you working on currently, what projects are out there for you?
BR: I have an acoustic thing that I’m doin’ now that should be finished up in about six to eight weeks. I want to get back to the acoustic thing, mainly because it’s part of my root, but it give me a chance to go back and do some things that economically that I couldn’t do with the whole big band. I can insert myself into places, the smaller clubs, the juke joints, what ever you want to call them, but the people who can’t afford me in a big band, they can afford me on an acoustic set.
DH: So the club circuit you’re doing is medium sized?
BR: Well you see, I’m in a class where you talkin about, the circuit I’m on, you’re talkin about Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Eric Clapton. I’m in that category. But I’m the lesser one of it because I’m not on no major label, it’s my label.
DH: Talk to me now about the changes in music distribution. I want to get your opinion on how it changes the label, artist, fan relationship?
BR: It changed the artist, it changed the label, it’s changed the outlook on records, even the record sales. But there’s another way you can sell records. If you go to the download. You have to know about them. And I got me one of these smart phone for a dumb guy, you got to have it. And if you don’t work, you don’t sell records, because your bandstand is your record shop these days.
[pullquote]And if you don’t work, you don’t sell records, because your bandstand is your record shop these days.[/pullquote]
DH: Your favorite cities to tour in, where do you go?
BR: Bein’ from Louisiana, you know I like New Orleans, but livin in Chicago all this time you know I like Chicago. And Memphis catch me between here and New Orleans. I stop off at Memphis and St. Louis.
DH: When you’re on the road do you have a favorite food you have to have in Chicago?
BR: When I come to Chicago, believe it or not I come here and I go buy some Spanish food place. I like tacos, man. When I go to Louisiana I get the boudin.
DH: When you’re really cranking it up, what do you like to close with?
BR: Probably going to be something like Night Fishing. But then again, I like things that have some meaning. A song that I wrote, recorded it ‘bout fifteen, twenty years [ago] called Making A Decision. Making a decision sometimes can be hard, ‘specially when you got children involved. Making a decision’s different when a old man cry, ‘cause it’s different when a baby cry. Those kinda things since there’s meaning. So I like to let people know that out of all the girls on the stage, all the fun, there’s a serious side.
DH: Anything you’d like to add?
BR: I’d like to tell all my fans and friends thanks for being my friends all the years. And I wanna thank the people who let me cross over.
DH: Let’s talk about Eric Clapton. He helped your career, didn’t he? You were in Montreaux.
BR: Aw yeah. It probably was a plan on his part, but people with his mindset, what he think about music, and the people who do it, is a great thing. It’s not so bad when people do music and name and tell where the music come from. Eric Clapton one of the people. He said, “Hey, I got me some Bobby Rush or Otis Rush or whoever,” he tell it. That’s what good about those kinda situations. He’s a giver.
DH: Do you have any personal causes or things important to you that you want to share?
BR: Yeah, I’m really into sickle cell anemic drive. I had two kids that passed of sickle cell anemia, and I do a lot of drives every year for those cause. And I do that year in and year out, every time I have a chance.
DH: Well God bless and take care, thanks for the time.
BR: Thanks for what you done, what you’re doing, and what you plan to do.