Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page

Lowell Fulson (March 31, 1921 – March 7, 1999) was a big-voiced blues guitarist and songwriter, in the West Coast blues tradition. Fulson was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He also recorded for business reasons as Lowell Fullsom and Lowell Fulsom. After T-Bone Walker, Fulson was the most important figure in West Coast blues in the 1940s and 1950s.

Career
According to some sources, Fulson was born on a Choctaw reservation in Oklahoma. Fulson has stated that he is of Cherokee ancestry through his father, but he has also claimed Choctaw ancestry. At the age of eighteen, Fulson moved to Ada, Oklahoma, and joined Alger "Texas" Alexander for a few months in 1940, but later moved to California, forming a band which soon included a young Ray Charles and tenor saxophone player, Stanley Turrentine. He recorded for Swing Time in the 1940s, Chess Records (Checker Records) in the 1950s, Kent Records in the 1960s, and Rounder Records (Bullseye) in the 1970s.

Fulson was drafted in 1943, but left the United States Navy in 1945. His most memorable and influential recordings include: "3 O’Clock Blues" (now a blues standard), the Memphis Slim-penned classic "Everyday I Have the Blues", "Lonesome Christmas", "Reconsider Baby" (covered in 1960 by Elvis Presley; and later by Eric Clapton on his From the Cradle album; as well as by Joe Bonamassa), and "Tramp" (co-written with Jimmy McCracklin) and later covered by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas.

"Reconsider Baby" came from a long term pact inked with Chess Records in 1954. It was cut in Dallas under Stan Lewis' supervision with a saxophone section that included David "Fathead" Newman on tenor and Leroy Cooper on baritone.

Jackie Brenston played in Fulson's band between 1952 and 1954.

Fulson stayed with Checker into 1962, but a change of record labels worked wonders when he jumped over to the Los Angeles based, Kent Records. 1965's driving "Black Nights" became his first hit in a decade, and "Tramp," did even better, restoring the guitarist to R&B stardom.

Fulson was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1993  and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album. His "Reconsider Baby" was chosen by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll".

In 1993 at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, California a show entitled "California Blues - Swingtime Tribute" opened with Fulson plus Johnny Otis, Charles Brown, Jay McShann, Jimmy Witherspoon, Jimmy McCracklin and Earl Brown.

A resident of Los Angeles, Fulson died in Long Beach, California in March 1999, at the age of 77. His companion Tina Mayfield stated that the causes of death were complications from kidney disease, diabetes, and congestive heart failure. He was the father of four and grandfather of thirteen.

Fulson was interred in Inglewood Park Cemetery, in Inglewood, California.

Contemporary influences
In the 2004 film Ray, a biopic of Ray Charles, Fulson was portrayed by blues musician, Chris Thomas King. Whilst Redman's 1993 single, "Time 4 Sum Aksion" contains a sample from Fulson's song, "Tramp". "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?", as performed by Fulson, appeared on the soundtrack to the 2007 crime film, American Gangster. Fulson originally covered The Beatles' song on his 1970 album, In A Heavy Bag. Salt-n-Pepa recorded a contemporary version of "Tramp" in 1987, on their Hot, Cool & Vicious album. A cover of Fulson's song "Sinner's Prayer" appeared on Ray Charles' final album, Genius Loves Company (2004).

Awards
In 1993 Fulson was granted a Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.