Blind Boy Fuller

by Katie Clayton, UNC Asheville Student

 


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Fuller, c. mid-1930s, from the collection of
Paul Oliver.

Full name: Fulton Allen

Recorded under: Blind Boy Fuller

Born: July 10, 1907, in Wadesboro, NC (Anson Co.)
Died: Feb. 13, 1941, in Durham, NC

Instrument: Guitar (and vocals)

Biographical Sketch

Most reports indicate that Blind Boy Fuller was born Fulton Allen sometime between 1903 and 1908 to Calvin Allen and Mary Jane Walker of Wadesboro, NC. Blues scholar Bruce Bastin pinpoints the date to July 10, 1907. He was one of 10 children. The family moved from Wadesboro to Rockingham, NC, while Fulton was still a boy. It was there that he picked up most of his guitar skills. During the mid-1920s, he further developed his skills by playing on street corners and at house parties. It is reported that in 1926 he suffered from ulcerated eyes and became partially blind; by 1928 he was completely blind. There is another story that explains his blindness, though. Supposedly, a jealous woman, perhaps a girlfriend or ex-girlfriend, blinded him with a mixture of household chemicals. From around 1928 until the early 1930s, Fuller played anywhere he could, from tobacco warehouses to fish fries. He teamed up with Sonny Terry, a harmonica player, and sometimes Bull City Red and Gary Davis. He spent a lot of time recording with ARC label group from 1935 through 1938. He also recorded with numerous other record labels up until 1940. Fuller’s life began winding down at this time, as he underwent a kidney operation in 1940. It is unsure how he died, but two possible causes are blood poisoning due to the effects of his kidney operation and/or pneumonia. He died at his home in Durham, NC, and was buried in Grove Hill Cemetery. Fuller is remembered for his “countryman compositions.” Many of his songs centered on the daily worries and woes of black tenant farmers and their encounters with big East Coast cities such as New York.

Books

Bastin, Bruce. Crying for the Carolines. London: Studio Vista, 1971.

Bastin, Bruce. Red River Blues: The Blues Tradition of the Southeast. University of Illinois Press, 1986.

Charters, Samuel Barclay. The Country Blues. Da Capo Press, 1975.

Harris, Sheldon. Blues Who's Who: A Biographical Dictionary of Blues Singers. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1979.

Herzhaft, Gerard. Encyclopedia of the Blues. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1992.

Wyman, Bill. Blues Odyssey: A Journey to the Music’s Heart and Soul. New York: DK Publishing, Inc, 2001.

Articles

Whirty, Ryan. "Blues Legend Inspires Quest." News & Observer (Raleigh, NC), January 22, 2006, http://www.newsobserver.com/105/story/391351.html

American national biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. 

DelGrosso, Rich. "Take it on home: Fuller's Blues - Part I." Blues Revue 52 (November 1999): 70-71.

DelGrosso, Rich. Take It on Home: Fuller's Blues - Part II. Blues Revue 53 (December 1999): 78-79. 

Mills, Fetzer, Jr. "Richard Trice: You Can't Smoke a Cigarette at Both Ends." Living Blues 141 (September-October 1998): 44-47.

Recordings on CD

Blind Boy Fuller. East Coast Piedmont Style. Columbia/Legacy

Blind Boy Fuller. Get Your Yas Yas Out: The Essential.

Blind Boy Fuller. Truckin' My Blues Away. Yazoo 1060.

Blind Boy Fuller. The Essential. Classic Blues.

Web Sites

All Music. Accessed 5 Nov. 2003 <www.allmusic.com>

In Memory of Blind Boy Fuller. Accessed 5 Nov. 2003 <www.rootsweb.com/~ncanson/blindboy.htm>




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Last updated 17 August 2006.