Blind Boy Fuller: “Truckin’ My Blues Away”

Blind Boy Fuller by R. Crumb.

Blind Boy Fuller (born Fulton Allen, 1904?-1941) was one of the most exemplary musicians of the Piedmont Blues style, influenced by the granddaddy of the style, Blind Blake, among others. Among Piedmont Blues artists he may have had the most unusual influence on popular culture, contributing the phrase “Keep On Truckin'” to American lingo in the late 1960s (via R. Crumb, who also drew the portrait at right and the record cover below), as well as the title of the Rolling Stones album “Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out” through his 1938 recording “Get Your Ya Yas Out” (which, it seems to me, is more grammatically correct anyway). Jas Obrecht put together this comprehensive biography and appreciation in 2011.

The Piedmont style is most evident in Fuller’s light, syncopated finger-style picking. He was “one of the most popular [Piedmont Blues singers of his time] with rural African Americans,” says the Wikipedia page devoted to his life and work. It goes on:

Fuller recorded over 120 sides, which were released by several labels. His style of singing was rough and direct, and his lyrics were explicit and uninhibited, drawing on every aspect of his experience as an underprivileged, blind black man on the streets — pawnshops, jailhouses, sickness, death — with an honesty that lacked sentimentality. Although he was not sophisticated, his artistry as a folk singer lay in the honesty and integrity of his self-expression. His songs expressed desire, love, jealousy, disappointment, menace and humor. … Because of his popularity, he may have been overexposed on records, but most of his songs stayed close to tradition, and much of his repertoire and style is kept alive by other Piedmont artists to this day.

In New York in 1936, Fuller recorded “Truckin’ My Blues Away,” one of his most memorable tracks, which gave rise to “Keep On Truckin’.” It also lends its name to this 1991 Yazoo compilation album.