Blind Boy Fuller / FULTON ALLEN













Blind Boy Fuller was born Fulton Allen in 1907 in the small town of Wadesboro, North Carolina, close to Charlotte.  Little is recorded about his childhood, although it is known that he did not come from a particularly musical family and even Allen didn't seem to take music too seriously. When he was in his teens his mother died and the family moved to Rockingham, North Carolina. There, when he was 19 years old, he met Cora Mae Martin and, she being only fourteen, they crossed the State line into South Carolina to marry. It was about this time that Allen began to suffer problems with his eyes and he sight began to deteriorate. He moved around looking for work but became more and more dependent on Cora Mae. He was in Durham when he met up with the Rev. Gary Davis who took the young Allen under his wing and developed his guitar playing and taught him a large repertoire of songs.

Allen, who could play ragtime, slide and blues, then began a successful career busking on the streets of Durham and on the house party circuit. In the mid 1930's he made his first recordings for ARC accompanied by washboard player Bull City Red (George Washington) and Gary Davis. It was at this time that Allen began calling himself Blind Boy Fuller, (although he once claimed that Fuller was initially a misspelling of Fulton by ARC). His songs were successful and he was recorded again the following year as a solo artist. After a brief flirtation with Decca, Fuller returned to ARC and subsequently recorded exclusively with them, teaming up with the great harmonica player Sonny Terry who was busking around the Durham area at the time.

Towards the end of the 1930's, as a result of his fast lifestyle, and also because of syphilis which caused complications in his kidneys, Fuller's health began to deteriorate. He also spent a period of time in prison and by 1940 he had cut back on his recording and performing schedule. He had one further big hit in 1940 with "Step It Up and Go", backed by Terry, and he also recorded for the last time, in Chicago, with Terry and Bull City Red. Fuller died in Durham in early 1941, aged just 33 years old. Fuller is considered by many as the best and most influential of the Piedmont bluesmen of the 1930's which is quite an achievement for someone who had such a relatively short career. He was a fine singer and master guitar player, best remembered perhaps for great ragtime hits such as "Rag Mama Rag".

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