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Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr.

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Information about Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr.

Profile image of Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr.

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Blues Musician

Favorites

Favorite Color:
White, Green
Favorite Food:
Vegetables, Seafood
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
West Coast
Favorite Quote:
Do Unto Others Like You Wish To Be Done Unto You.

Birthplace

Born:
11/10/1933
Birth Location:
Haynesville, Louisiana

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Blues Musician

Favorites

Favorite Color:
White, Green
Favorite Food:
Vegetables, Seafood
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
West Coast
Favorite Quote:
Do Unto Others Like You Wish To Be Done Unto You.

Birthplace

Born:
11/10/1933
Birth Location:
Haynesville
See how Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Blues musician Emmett “Bobby Rush” Ellis, Jr. was born on November 10, 1933 in Haynesville, Louisiana to Mattie Spivey Ellis and Emmett Ellis, Sr. He attended public school in Haynesville until he was eleven years old, at which point he halted his education to help support his family.

Ellis received his first guitar at seven years old, and was taught to sing and play music by his father. He aspired to become a blues musician after hearing the music of Muddy Waters and other artists on the radio. After leaving school at eleven years old, Ellis began working at a cotton gin to help his family financially. In 1947, Ellis moved to Sherrill, Arkansas with his family and found work as a sharecropper. He continued playing guitar during this time, and started his professional music career in 1950, when he played with Elmore James at a club in Arkansas. When he was eighteen years old, he migrated to Chicago, Illinois, and formed the band Bobby Rush and the Four Jivers, which included Pinetop Perkins, Freddie King and Little Walter. He began recording blues music at Chess Records, but was denied work after the Chess brothers learned that he could read. In 1954, he integrated the Bourbon Street nightclub and his band became a regular act there. He recruited comedian Dick Gregory to perform at Bourbon Street. Ellis met Jimmy Reed at Vee-Jay Records, and opened for Reed at a major Chicago venue in 1957. During the course of his career, Ellis befriended other popular blues musicians such as Muddy Waters and B.B. King. In 2015, he played at King’s final show, and performed a harmonica tribute when King passed away shortly afterwards.

Ellis has been widely celebrated for his role in blues music history. In 2006 he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. The following year he became the first blues artist to perform in China, which earned him the unofficial title as the International Dean of the Blues. In 2015, he was the recipient of two Blues Music Awards in the categories of Soul Blues Male Artist and B.B. King Entertainer of the Year. The same year, he was inducted into the Official Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame. Ellis won a Blues Music Award and his first Grammy Award in 2017 for his album Porcupine Meat, and received an award for Historical Album of the Year for Chicken Heads: A 50 Year History of Bobby Rush. His green-studded suit depicted on the inside cover of Porcupine Meat was donated to the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History.

Emmett “Bobby Rush” Ellis, Jr. was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 12, 2017.

See how Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr.'s interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. talks about his paternal grandparents
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. remembers leaving school to work at a cotton gin
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. talks about his father's education and occupation
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. talks about his mother's light complexion
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. reflects upon the prevalence of racial discrimination
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. describes his experiences of discrimination at Chess Records
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. recalls his introduction to blues music
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. describes his early musical influences
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. talks about his siblings
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. remembers moving with his family to Sherrill, Arkansas
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. talks about his parents' relationship
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. talks about his maternal great-grandfather's estate, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. talks about his maternal great-grandfather's estate, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. talks about WOKJ Radio in Jackson, Mississippi
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. talks about the programming on WOKJ Radio in Jackson, Mississippi
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. recalls winning the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album in 2017
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. remembers Elmore James
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. talks about the influence of Jimmy Reed
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. remembers performing with Jimmy Reed in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. talks about his friendship with Muddy Waters
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. remembers playing with B.B. King
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. recalls learning to play the harmonica
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. plays the harmonica
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. describes the stories behind his lyrics
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. talks about music publishing rights, pt. 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. talks about music publishing rights, pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. recalls his friendships with famous musicians
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. remembers playing in segregated clubs in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. remembers playing in segregated clubs in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. recalls recruiting acts to the Bourbon Street nightclub in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. shares his advice to aspiring musicians