Saturday, August 3, 2013
Forrest Cty Joe/Rocky Fuller - Memory Of Sonny Boy
Joe Bennie Pugh was born in Hughes, AR, on July 10, 1926, to Moses Pugh and Mary Walker. He was raised in the area around Hughes and West Memphis, AR, and even as a boy played the local juke joints in the area. He hoboed his way through the state working road houses and juke joints during the 1940s, and late in the decade hooked up with Big Joe Williams, playing with him around St. Louis, MO. Beginning in 1947, he also began working the Chicago area, and a year later had his one and only session for the Chess brothers' Aristocrat label. He also appeared with Howlin' Wolf and Sonny Boy "Rice Miller" Williamson (aka Sonny Boy II) on radio shows in the West Memphis area.
When he returned to Chicago in 1949, he began working with the Otis Spann Combo, appearing at the Tick Tock Lounge and other clubs in the city until the mid-'50s. Pugh returned to Arkansas and gave up music, except for occasional weekend shows with Willie Cobbs, playing in pool rooms and on street corners, beginning in 1955. Pugh recorded for Atlantic Records in 1959, and was still performing until his death in 1960, in a truck accident while returning home from a dance.
Had Muddy played Forest City Joe's one and only Chess Records session, as was intended, chances are more of Joe's work would've seen the light of day, if only in an effort to scrounge up every note that Muddy ever played. But as it was, only "Memory of Sonny Boy" and "A Woman on Every Street" ever saw the light of day, and at this writing only the former has ever appeared on an American CD (and this LP).
As to his extant music, "Memory of Sonny Boy" was among the first postwar tribute records from one bluesman to another (Scrapper Blackwell had done as much for Leroy Carr in the 1930s), starting a trend that continued for decade. And it's a great record, at least as far as the harp playing and the singing go. Joe's playing mimics Sonny Boy Williamson I's call-and-response harp playing, performing dazzling volume acrobatics, and his singing is also highly expressive. None of the rest is as strong, but "Shady Lane Woman" is a good, bluesy romantic lament, while "A Woman on Every Street" is the other side of the coin, and a better workout on the harp. "Sawdust Bottom" should have seen release, and "Ash Street Boogie" could've seen action if the accompaniment had been better realized. Alas, J.C. Coles was seemingly content to strum along almost inaudibly in the background -- ah, what Muddy might've done....
Rocky Fuller is a pseudonym used by Louisiana Red, who was born Iverson Minter on March 23, 1932 and died on February 25, 2012 in Hanover, Germany. He recorded for Chess in 1952, after leaving the Army, under the name Rocky Fuller. In the early 80s, he relocated to Chicago, then Phoenix and then Germany, where he married and settled. As well as recording for a number of labels, and recording many albums, he also had a number of film appearances. He also won a number of awards, including the W C Handy Award.