Oldest living Mid-South blues man Bobby Rush wins Grammy Award

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- He was born Emmett Ellis, but he's known by his fans around the world as blues man Bobby Rush, the Dean of the Blues and the King of the Chitlin Circuit. At 83 years young, the Mid-South and Mississippi blues great and living legend is taking home his first Grammy Award this weekend in Los Angeles.

When it comes to Bobby Rush and his blues, you almost feel as if you're living every word, note and foot stomp of his music.

"I might be the oldest living blues man in this category. I've been through hell and high water with my life and my career and my life as a blues man and a black blues man," Rush said.

Rush's blues can strike the deepest heartache and humor involving a wronged party or the other man or the other woman in relationships in the dark and behind closed doors.

"I talk about things, who could hurt you more, your best friend with your lady or girlfriend or someone you don't know?"Rush said.

Born in Louisiana and the son of a church minister, Rush's career began on Beale Street in 1951.

"There's a guy called E.L. Burgess hired me and my little band for $12 a month. I was getting a dollar a night for tapping," Rush said.

He was surviving on a dollar a night and in a segregated Memphis.

"I remember when we as black entertainers working Beale Street we could go south, but when you'd go north near the Peabody (Hotel) they would turn you around. 'You black guys go back to Beale Street!' I've seen a lot," Rush said.

Just walk down Beale Street today and watch the reaction of his fans, both black and white.

"I know who you are. I like big women too."

"You're too young to know about Bobby Rush."

"'I Ain't Studdin Ya, I Ain't Studdin Ya.'"

Rush has recorded more than 375 songs, including "I Ain't Studdin Ya" and "Chicken Heads," and he does about 300 performances a year with his showstopping shake dancers front and center.

"Some guys show up just for the ladies. You're looking at Las Vegas when you see me," Rush said.

He's rocked festivals from Memphis to Europe and even the Great Wall of China.

"They called me brother and I call them brother. China will take a bow to you, but they embraced me, and I believe I'm the first entertainer they embraced," Rush said.

This year Rush's music peers are embracing him.

"If I don't bring the trophy home, we will bring it home in our soul and heart. I'm glad to be in the race and when you're in the race you are a winner "

His album "Porcupine Meat" is nominated for a Grammy Award for best traditional blues album.

"So many times I tried to leave her, but I come back for more. Now that's porcupine meat. It's too fat to eat but too lean to throw away," Rush said, laughing.

At the Blues Foundation's Blues Hall of Fame Museum on South Main Street in downtown Memphis, the spotlights shines on the best in blues music throughout the years, and one of those happens to be Mr. Bobby Rush.

Joe Whitmer is the Blues Foundation's chief operating officer.

"Someone as hardworking in the music business for as long as he has been deserves our utmost respect and a good place in our museum," Whitmer said.

However, Rush feels some blues artists don't always get the respect they deserve from blues fans around the country.

"And then you'll have people who'll think the white guy when he plays the blues that they're the best who's ever played the blues. I'm not saying blacks are the only ones who got the blues. It's all around," Rush said.

Still, on any given Saturday night you'll find Bobby Rush giving his all on stage, but on Sunday mornings he's giving back at his church praying and feeding the hungry and the souls of jail inmates with his ministry.

"Because I'm a juke joint guy who is going to church on Sunday morning and I'm going to teach and I've had a jail ministry for 30 years. I give out of my own pocket and my heart," Rush said.

Back on Beale Street, the great-grandson of the King of the Blues, B.B. King, embraces Rush almost symbolizing that blues music is in good hands. On the same historic street, the son of the late Bobby Blue Bland reminisces about Rush's friendship with his father and how the torch has been passed to Rush.

"You're one of the last few who are left of what I call my blues. The old man is gone (Bobby Blue Bland), B.B. (King) is gone, Albert King's been gone and to me there is you."

There is Bobby Rush. He's almost eternal.

"I am proud and thankful that people accept me for who I am and what I do. I am a blues man. That's all I am, but I'm God's child," Rush said.

And his music is timeless.

"You better take a good look at me tonight people because this could be the last time you see me," Rush sang.

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