Lowell Fulson, “Tollin’ Bells”

Before Otis Redding, there was a brief period in the mid-1950s where blues guitarist Lowell Fulson experimented with a soulful singing style. The Tulsa, Okla.-born musician in the 1950s worked with Chess Records’ musician/songwriter Willie Dixon, who is to rock ‘n’ roll what Alfred Hitchcock is to suspense.

Dixon wrote or performed on nearly every classic by Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Howlin’ Wolf — songs that would later be refurbished by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and the Stones. Case in point is the lesser-known Dixon-penned tune, “Tollin’ Bells,” from 1956. It’s a dirgy, reckless tune, the protagonist having just learned that his baby is not coming back — just a slow piano rag, weeping horns and a big pile of woozy despair belching forth from Fulson’s lungs. The song would later be covered by Paul Butterfield and Robert Cray.

(A note about the video below. It says Willie Dixon, but it is in fact Lowell Fulson singing.)

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