238 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI PHOTO COURTESY OF BLUES ARCHIVE, UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI; ROBERT BARCLAY, PHOTOGRAPHER BOBBY RUSH Award-winning blues musician Bobby Rush, now a Mississippi icon, was born Emmett Ellis, Jr., on November 10, 1933 in Homer, Louisiana. As a child, Rush’s father, a pastor, played the guitar and harmonica, which inspired Rush to create his own music using a sugarcane syrup container and broom wire. This homemade instrument was Rush’s first guitar, as his family could not afford a real one at the time. When Rush was a young teenager, his father received a job as pastor and moved the family to Pine Bluff, Arkansas. There, Rush’s passion for the blues intensified, as he acquired a real guitar and began playing in local juke joints. In order to maintain respect for his father’s position as a pastor, Rush decided to adopt a stage name. He interacted with prominent blues artists of the day and formed a band with Elmore James, often playing at a local club called Jackrabbit. Rush left Arkansas for Chicago with his family in 1953 in pursuit of an opportunity to further develop his music career. During the middle and latter parts of the decade, Rush had opportunities to play with legendary bluesmen like Muddy Waters, who was his neighbor, Howlin’ Wolf, Etta James, and many others. Rush formed his own group and began developing his unique, funky blues style in the 1960s. He produced his first gold certified record, entitled Chicken Heads, in 1971. Rush continued to record throughout the 1970s, and in the early 1980s moved to Jackson, which he has called home ever since. There, he has recorded songs such as “What’s Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander Too,” “I Ain’t Studdin’ You,” and “Sue, A Man Can Give (But He Sure Can’t Take It),” which became popular juke joint tunes. Mississippi’s central southern location and rich history in the music industry allow the artist to easily travel for performances in nearby locations and to continue recording his music. Rush has recorded several hundred songs over more than five decades, garnering popular and critical acclaim not only in the American South, but also throughout the United States and across the globe. Known as the “King of the Chitlin’ Circuit,” today the eighty-two year old bluesman continues to perform around the world with much of the same energy and passion he displayed throughout his earlier career. In 2007, Rush became the first blues artist to perform at the Great Wall of China. Some consider his latest album, Porcupine Meat, one of his best works and most representative of his stand-out style. Rush has received three Grammy Award nominations and forty-one nominations and ten awards from the Blues Foundation. As of 2006, Rush is a member of the Blues Hall of Fame. Tellingly, American Blues Scene stated that Rush “deserves being mentioned in the same context as the blues greats Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, and B.B. King.”