Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup

This music I really enjoy, but it is hard to find accurate information, because a lot of it happened before we where good at keeping records.  A lot of this music is over 60 years old.

Arthur (Big Boy) Crudup:


Mean Ol’ Frisco – Arthur Big Boy Crudup

Arthur (Big Boy) Crudup was born on August 24, 1905 in Forest, Mississippi.  What we all remember him for is “That’s All Right Mama“, Elvis Presley’s first record.

I own about 30 of his songs and I am sure that people will say I should have included this one or that one, but I will include what I can.  You must remember that some of the songs are over 60 years old and Russ & I think that we where there for the birth of Rock and Roll.

Listen to this Cat, he was Rockin’ 10 to 15 years before Russ and I knew anything about it.

Give Me A 32-20 (1942) Mean Old Frisco Blues (1942) Rock Me Mama (1945) That’s All Right Mama (1946) Gonna Be Some Changes Made (1946 – 49) I Want My Lovin (1946 – 49) Going Back To Georgia (1951)

Arthur Crudup may well have been Elvis Presley’s favorite blues man. The swivel-hipped rock god recorded no less than three of “Big Boy’s” Victor classics during his seminal Rockabilly heyday: “That’s All Right Mama” (Elvis’ Sun debut in 1954), “So Glad You’re Mine” and “My Baby Left Me“.

Often lost in all the hubbub surrounding Presley’s classic covers are Crudup’s own contributions to the blues lexicon. He didn’t sound much like anyone else, and that makes him an innovator, albeit a rather rudimentary guitarist (he didn’t even pick up the instrument until he was 30 years old).

Around 1940, Crudup migrated to Chicago from Mississippi. Times were tough at first; he was playing for spare change on the streets and living in a packing crate underneath an elevated train track when powerful RCA/Bluebird producer Lester Melrose dropped a few coins in Crudup’s hat. Melrose hired Crudup to play a party that 1941 night at Tampa Red’s house attended by the cream of Melrose’s stable: Big Bill Broonzy, Lonnie Johnson and Lil Green. A decidedly tough crowd to impress — but Crudup overcame his nervousness with flying colors. By September of 1941, he was himself an RCA artist.

Crudup pierced the uppermost reaches of the R&B lists during the mid-’40s with “Rock Me Mama“, “Who’s Been Foolin’ You“, “Keep Your Arms Around Me“, “So Glad You’re Mine” and “Ethel Mae“.

He cut the original “That’s All Right” in 1946 backed by his usual rhythm section of bassist Ransom Knowling and drummer Judge Riley, but it wasn’t a national hit at the time.

Crudup remained a loyal and prolific employee of Victor until 1954, when a lack of tangible rewards for his efforts soured Crudup on Nipper (he had already cut singles in 1952 for Trumpet disguised as “Elmer James” and for Checker as “Percy Lee Crudup”).

In 1961, Crudup surfaced after a long layoff with an album for Bobby Robinson’s Harlem-based Fire logo dominated by remakes of his Bluebird hits. Another lengthy hiatus preceded Delmark boss Bob Koester’s following the tip of Big Joe Williams to track down the elusive legend (Crudup had drifted into contract farm labor work in the interim).

Happily, the guitarist’s sound hadn’t been dimmed by Father Time: his late-’60s work for Delmark rang true as he was reunited with Knowling (Willie Dixon also handled bass duties on some of his sides). Finally, Crudup began to make some decent money, playing various blues and folk festivals for appreciative crowds for a few years prior to his 1974 death.

Arthur came into the world poor and departed the same way, but he was a huge influence.


Jerry Reed – “That’s Alright Mama


Mean old Frisco blues/1942

3 responses to “Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup

  1. Pingback: Rock’s Influence – The 1940s | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

  2. Thanks for providing some of the recorded music of Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup! I’m amazed by the fact of “That’s Alright Mama” being released an entire 8 years before Elvis’ version; he was too far ahead of his time, apparently. Or maybe too ‘black’ sounding, ahem.

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