By 1945 he had arrived in Pittsburgh, via a stay in Waco, Texas, and taught himself to play guitar. Two years later he could be found busking on the streets and by the age of 16 was regularly featured on local radio stations. In 1949 the Muddy Waters Band was playing in town at the Skyline Club and Red was asked to sit in with the band. At the end of the set Muddy urged him to move to Chicago where unfortunately, due to some minor misdemeanour, he served a year in a reformatory. In 1951 he was inducted into the air force and served in England and Korea.
One year later he was back in Chicago and as Rocky Fuller recorded eight tracks for Chess Records, two being issued on the very fine Checker 753 single called ‘Soon One Morning/Rock Me Baby. The remaining tracks appeared on a lovely Japanese P-Vine LP 6032 thirty-three years later. In 1953 he again visited the Chess Studios and recorded two tracks with Little Walter on harmonica and Jimmy Rogers on guitar. Only one of these tracks ‘Funeral Hearse at My Door’ being eventually issued on CD. Later that year Red moved to Detroit and with a change of name to Playboy Fuller he began performing with John Lee Hooker on a regular basis at The Harlem Inn. He then recorded an excellent single on Fuller Records backed by Jesse Lee Williams on harmonica and Johnny Walters on piano. Shortly after that, as Rockin’ Red, he recorded ‘Boogie Woogie All Night Long’ with John Lee backing him. This track was erroneously attributed to John Lee Hooker and issued on Hooker’s Crown LP 5232. Times were hard for working musicians and during this period he was often found working outside the music business to make ends meet. However, in 1958 he started a series of club dates through the south and the following year he was found frequently working with James Wayne’s Night Hawks of ‘Junco Partner’ fame in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
In 1960 he moved to New York City and recorded a very fine single for Atlas Records ‘I Done Woke Up/I Had A Feeling’ and two years later was back in the recording studio laying down the wonderful ‘Red’s Dream’ LP 25200 for Roulette. This album was Red’s breakthrough and has been issued and re-issued all over the world time and time again. This was followed in 1964 by a series of recordings for Atco Records, which culminated in the magnificent Atco LP 389 ‘Sings The Blues’. Following this he worked with Jimmy Reed and for a while became involved with the Black Muslim Movement. He married Ealase in 1963 and she bore him three children before her death ten years later.
In 1975 he embarked on a gruelling series of concert and recording dates in France, Germany, Switzerland and Japan and in 1977 he married the famous folk blues singer Odetta and eventually re-located to Germany. Since then he has recorded at least a further twenty-three albums and has travelled throughout the world headlining concerts both in Europe and the States. Whilst I have had the pleasure of seeing Red perform at some of his festival gigs I never really expected to be able to persuade him to play for us at Shakedown.