Blind Boy Fuller Born in Ansonville NC in 1907 became A Great Blues Musician - info collected by Steve Bailey
Blind Boy Fuller was born Fulton Allen in Ansonville NC in July of 1907. He was one of 16 children born to Calvin & Mary Jane Hyatt Allen & probably grew up around Pleasant Hill Baptist Church on the Ansonville-Polkton Road where some of his relatives are buried. He was always surrounded by music & learned to play the guitar with the help of an older brother or sister. His grandparents were Sidney & Elizabeth Allen & Washington & Annie Hyatt.
The family was still living in Ansonville in 1910 but were living in Rockingham NC by 1917 when two of his brothers were married in February & March of that year at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church. Blind Boy Fuller married Cora Martin on September 10, 1927 in Marlboro County SC when he was 22 years old & she was 14 years old. The marriage license stated they were residents of Rockingham, NC. During this time, his eyesight started to fail him which was caused by a congenital disease, whereas he became dependent upon his guitar playing to make a living, realizing that performing was one of the few alternatives that were available to the working class blind in the 1920’s.
By the time he & his wife had moved to Durham NC in 1929, he was entirely dependent on his guitar playing that helped to supplement the meager wages his wife earned as a domestic servant. Durham NC had an abundance of African American middle class with African American owned banks, insurance companies, funeral homes & a host of other businesses contributing to a vibrant African American urban life. Recognizing the unique opportunities that Durham had to offer to musicians that were forced to rely on the public for support, he set out to improve the mastery of the guitar. As his playing improved, he became a favorite at local house parties.
In 1935 his musical talents caught the ear of James Long, the white manager of Durham’s United Dollar Store who was an informal agent of the American Record Corporation (ARC). Sensing that Fulton’s versatile guitar playing, witty lyrics & robust singing could lead to a successful recording career, Long arranged for Fulton to travel to ARC’s New York studios for a recording session. ARC released all twelve songs recorded at that session & soon called him back into the studio.
Over the next five years, Fulton, who appeared on record as “Blind Boy Fuller” recorded more than 125 titles, all of which were released. Those recordings made him one of the most popular blues artists of all time. His guitar style came to define the blues sound of the southeastern states. Blind Boy Fuller died from a severe bladder infection on February 13, 1941 at his home in Durham NC & he was buried at Durham’s Grove Hill Cemetery.
Blind Boy Fuller has been recognized on two different plaques in the City of Durham. The Division of Archives and History plaque is located a few miles north of Fuller's gravesite, along Fayetteville Street in Durham NC & the City of Durham officially recognized Fuller on July 16, 2001, and the commemorating plaque is located along the American Tobacco Trail adjacent to the property where Fuller's unmarked grave is located (several hundred feet east of Fayetteville St.).