Bull City Red (born George Washington,
Durham, North Carolina, United States) was an American, Piedmont blues
guitarist, singer, and predominately washboard player, most associated with
Blind Boy Fuller and the Reverend Gary Davis. Little is known of Red's life
outside of his recording career.
George Washington's primary nickname, 'Bull City Red', came from the 'Bull
City' town of Durham, where he was born. He was sometimes alternatively
called Oh Red. Although he was just good enough as a guitarist to imitate
Fuller, with whom he frequently played, he was a very talented washboard
player and also sang.
A partial albino, Red was a street musician in Durham before becoming the
sole sighted member of a band managed by talent scout J. B. Long that
included at various times Fuller, Sonny Terry and Davis. In 1935, then a
trio featuring Red, Davis and Fuller, the band went to New York to enter the
recording studio for the first time, in a session for the American Record
Corporation (ARC). As his collaborators were blind, Red signaled them by
touch when the recording ended. Accompanying Fuller along with Terry, Red
recorded many songs for ARC's Perfect label between 1935 and Fuller's death
during surgery in 1941.
Red also recorded gospel music based songs under the name of 'Brother George
and His Sanctified Singers' along with Fuller, Terry, and Sonny Jones. He
recorded 'I Saw the Light' with guitar backing by Davis. On Fuller's latter
day compilation album, Get Your Yas Yas Out, Red played the washboard on
'Jitterbug Rag'. Between 1935 and 1939, he struck out on his own as well,
recording solo with his own vocals, guitar and washboard. His tracks
included 'Black Woman and Poison Blues' and 'I Won't Be Dogged Around'.
In 1941, Red became involved with another band. In late 1940, he had
introduced Brownie McGhee and his collaborator Jordan Webb to his manager
and fellow musicians Fuller and Terry. After Fuller's death, the group came
together along with another washboard player, Robert Young, to record.