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Jesse Fuller

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Jesse Fuller (March 12, 1896 – January 29, 1976) was an American blues, “one-man band”, musician, best known for his song “San Francisco Bay Blues”.

Fuller was born in Jonesboro, Georgia, near Atlanta. He was sent by his mother to live with foster parents when he was a young child, in a rural setting where he was badly mistreated. Growing up, he worked a multitude of jobs: grazing cows for ten cents a day, working in a barrel factory, a broom factory, a rock quarry, on a railroad and a streetcar company, shining shoes, and even peddling hand-carved wooden snakes.

He came west and in the 1920s worked briefly as a film extra in The Thief of Bagdad and East of Suez. Eventually he settled in Oakland, California, across the bay from San Francisco, where he worked for the Southern Pacific railroad. During World War II, he worked as a shipyard welder, but when the war ended he found it increasingly difficult to find work. Around the early 1950s, Fuller’s thoughts turned toward the possibility of making a living playing music.

Up to this point, Fuller had never worked professionally as a musician, but had certainly been exposed to music, and had learned to play guitar and picked up quite a number of songs: country blues, work songs, ballads, spirituals and instrumentals. And he had carried his guitar with him and played for money by passing the hat. When he decided to try to work as a professional, he found it hard to find other musicians to work with: thus his one-man band act was born.

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