” Breaking into the R&B Top Ten his very first time out in 1956 with the startlingly intense slow blues “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” southpaw guitarist Otis Rush subsequently established himself as one of the premier bluesmen on the Chicago circuit. Rush is often credited with being one of the architects of the West side guitar style, along with Magic Sam and Buddy Guy. It’s a nebulous honor, since Rush played clubs on Chicago’s South side just as frequently during the sound’s late-’50s incubation period. Nevertheless, his esteemed status as a prime Chicago innovator is eternally assured by the ringing, vibrato-enhanced guitar work that remains his stock in trade and a tortured, super-intense vocal delivery that can force the hairs on the back of your neck upwards in silent salute. If talent alone were the formula for widespread success, Rush would certainly have been Chicago’s leading blues artist. But fate, luck, and the guitarist’s own idiosyncrasies conspired to hold him back on several occasions when opportunity was virtually begging to be accepted.
” Rush came to Chicago in 1948, met Muddy Waters, and knew instantly what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. The omnipresent Willie Dixon caught Rush‘s act and signed him to Eli Toscano‘s Cobra Records in 1956. The frighteningly intense “I Can’t Quit You Baby” was the maiden effort for both artist and label, streaking to number six on Billboard’s R&B chart. His 1956-1958 Cobra legacy is a magnificent one, distinguished by the Dixon-produced minor-key masterpieces “Double Trouble” and “My Love Will Never Die,” the tough-as-nails “Three Times a Fool” and “Keep on Loving Me Baby,” and the rhumba-rocking classic “All Your Love (I Miss Loving).” Rush apparently dashed off the latter tune in the car en route to Cobra’s West Roosevelt Road studios, where he would cut it with the nucleus of Ike Turner‘s combo.
After Cobra closed up shop, Rush‘s recording fortunes mostly floundered. He followed Dixon over to Chess in 1960, cutting another classic (the stunning “So Many Roads, So Many Trains”) before moving on to Duke (one solitary single, 1962’s “Homework”), Vanguard, and Cotillion (there he cut the underrated Mike Bloomfield–Nick Gravenites-produced 1969 album Mourning in the Morning, with yeoman help from the house rhythm section in Muscle Shoals). Typical of Rush‘s horrendous luck was the unnerving saga of his Right Place, Wrong Time album.”Continue reading