Choctaw Native and African-American bluesman Lowell Fulson was born near Tulsa, OK, in 1921 and grew up in the town of Atoka, which is right up against the Texas/Oklahoma border. Inspired by Blind Lemon Jefferson and one Coot Mason, an itinerant musician remembered as a "hillbilly guitarist," young Fulson moved to Ada, OK, in 1938 and began performing there with a string band led by Dan Wright. Married in 1939, he tried to swear off professional musicianship but soon had a gig accompanying blues shouter, soon-to-be wife-slayer, and ultimate syphilis victim Alger "Texas" Alexander. Lowell Fulson was conscripted into the armed forces in 1943. While stationed in Oakland, CA, he wandered into a 7th Avenue record store where shop owner and small-time record producer Bob Geddins stood operating a one-man record-pressing device. Picking up a guitar that was lying nearby, Fulson played on it until Geddins offered him his first recording assignment with a payment of $100 cash. This first volume in the Classics Lowell Fulson chronology opens with the first 12 sides he ever recorded. The session took place in San Francisco during June of 1946 with his brother Martin Fulson playing second guitar. Lowell Fulson sounded at this point something like Texas Alexander, Lightnin' Hopkins, or Muddy Waters on those records he made prior to and during his first months in Chicago. Note that Fulson's very first recorded tune, "Three O'Clock Blues," would soon become a staple in B.B. King's repertoire. The rural Texas vibe on these earliest Fulson sides may come as a surprise to those accustomed to his later, juicier production blues. The Fulson brothers' second and third recording dates took place near the end of 1946 with additional support from pianist Eldridge McCarty, bassist Bob "Big Dad" Johnson, and drummer Dickie "Little Man" Washington. Their first session of 1947 used a different lineup in pianist Rufus J. Russell, bassist Arthur Robinson, and drummer Asal "Count" Carson. Originally released on the Down Town, Big Town, and Down Beat labels, most of the tracks heard on this compilation proceed at a slow and reflective pace, with tempos slightly quickened on "You're Gonna Miss Me" and "Katie Lee Blues" and a full-blown boogie-woogie treatment given to "I Want You to Be My Baby" and "Don't Be So Evil." This earliest segment of the chronology, then, traces Fulson's gradual stylistic evolution from the austerely ruminative to the slightly rowdy. "Don't Be So Evil," in fact, really rocks.
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