A one-man band who sang and played guitar, harmonica, kazoo, and what he called a fotdella (a bass drum/cymbal combination operated by his foot), Jesse Fuller (1896-1976) was always a delight to hear and see. He was associated with his original "San Francisco Bay Blues” and other good-time music.
Born in Georgia, Fuller learned guitar as a child, dropped out of school in the third grade, ran away from home when he was ten, and developed into a modern-day minstrel musician. Fuller played throughout the South and West Coast, spending a few years in Los Angeles where he worked as a film extra in silent movies. After moving to Oakland in 1929, Fuller worked outside of music during the Depression. In the early 1940s he returned to music and became legendary in the San Francisco area, particularly in the 1950s when he appeared regularly on television and started to make records.
Jesse Fuller’s brand of folk/blues/trad jazz music can be heard on five releases recorded for Good Time Jazz, Prestige and Bluesville during 1958-1962. Jazz, Folk Songs, Spirituals & Blues, is highlighted by "Tiger Rag,” "By And By,” "Fingerbuster,” and "Stagolee.” The Lone Cat, San Francisco Bay Blues, Jesse Fuller’s Favorites, and Brother Lowdown also give listeners a well-rounded picture of Fuller’s expertise at his instruments and the folk/blues repertoire that he uplifted.
Jesse Fuller worked regularly during the folk revival of the 1960s. Until his health began to decline in the early 1970s, he was a consistent crowd-pleaser at festivals. Young audiences loved seeing his one-man band performing joyful music and vintage folk songs.