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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!

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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Red River Blues - Jesse Fuller

Jesse Fuller (March 12, 1896 — January 29, 1976) was an American one-man band musician, best known for his song "San Francisco Bay Blues". His nickname was "Lone Cat."
Starting locally, in clubs and bars in San Francisco and across the bay in Oakland and Berkeley, Fuller became more widely known when he performed on television in both the Bay Area and Los Angeles, and in 1958 his recording career started with his first album on the Good Time Jazz record label. Fuller's instruments included 12-string guitar, harmonica, kazoo, cymbal (high-hat) and fotdella, several of which could be played simultaneously, particularly with the use of a head-piece to hold the harmonica and kazoo, often at the same time.
No discussion of Fuller would be complete without devoting some attention to the fotdella. This is an instrument entirely of Fuller's creation and construction. Keeping in mind that he was a one-man band, the problem was how to supply a more substantial accompaniment than the typical high-hat (cymbal) or bass drum used by street musicians. Fuller's stroke of genius, which he said came to him as he was lying in bed, was this fotdella. It was a foot-operated percussion bass, consisting of a large upright wood box, shaped like the top of a double bass. Attached to a short neck at the top of this box were six bass strings, stretched over the body. And finally, there was the means to play those strings: six foot pedals, each connected to a padded hammer which struck the string, in a homemade wooden contraption.

The six notes of the fotdella allowed him to play a bass line in several keys, though he occasionally would play without it if a song exceeded its limited range.

The name was coined by his wife, who took to calling the instrument a "foot-diller" (as in a "killer-diller" instrument played with the foot), which was shortened to fotdella.

Fuller died in January 1976 in Oakland, California from heart disease. He was 79 years of age. He was interred at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland.
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