The North Carolina Visitor Center




Blind Boy Fuller


Born: July 10, 1907, in Wadesboro, NC (Anson Co.)

Died: Feb. 13, 1941, in Durham, NC



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 repertoire included a number of popular double entendre "hokum" songs such as "I Want Some Of Your Pie", "Truckin' My Blues Away" (the origin of the phrase "keep on truckin'"), and "Get Your Yas Yas Out" (the origin of a later Rolling Stones album title), together with the autobiographical "Big House Bound" dedicated to his time spent in jail.


Though much of his material was culled from traditional folk and blues numbers, he possessed a formidable finger-picking guitar style. He played a steel National Resonator Guitar.


He was criticised by some as a derivative musician, but his ability to fuse together elements of other traditional and contemporary songs and reformulate them into his own performances, attracted a broad audience. He was an expressive vocalist and a masterful guitar player, best remembered for his uptempo ragtime hits including "Step It Up and Go." At the same time he was capable of deeper material, and his versions of "Lost Lover Blues", "Rattlesnakin' Daddy" and "Mamie" are as deep as most Delta blues.

 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.

***This article is reprinted from Merlin In Rags ***





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