Blues Bytes


September/October 2019

Zuzu Bollin
 Texas Bluesman
Antone's Records

Zuzu Bollin

Zuzu Bollin got his nickname while playing in the E.X. Brooks’ band due to his love for a brand of ginger snap cookies called ZuZus. Born A.D. Bollin in 1922, he was influenced by a pair of guitar-playing uncles who introduced him to Blind Lemon Jefferson and Leroy Carr. Bollin served in the Navy during World War II and began playing professionally after the war in various bands. In 1951 he wrote and recorded “Why Don’t You Eat Where You Slept Last Night,” along with the flipside, “Headlight Blues,” for the Torch label.

“Why Don’t You Eat Where You Slept Last Night” became a regional hit but Bollin wasn’t able to cash in much further as a recording artist, recording only a couple of other sides. He spent the ’50s and ’60s touring with other bands until he left the music business in the mid ’60s to go into the dry cleaning business. When he was rediscovered in 1987 by Dallas Blues Society’s Chuck Nevitt, most people thought that he was dead. Instead, he was living in a rooming house in Dallas in poverty. Nevitt became his manager and put him back on the performing trail again, eventually recording an album released as an LP on the Dallas Blues Society record label.

The album brought Bollin some much deserved fame and he began playing around the Dallas area, eventually graduating to the 1989 Chicago Blues Festival and a European tour. Sadly, Bollin passed away in 1990 at 68, but Antone's Records picked up the DBS recording, Texas Bluesman, releasing it to wider distribution in 1991, a good deed if there ever was one. Bollin’s booming voice and his T-Bone-esque guitar work were both as sharp as a tack, and Nevitt surrounded the bluesman with some impressive talent including rhythm guitarists Hash Brown and Sumter Bruton, drummer Doyle Bramhall, guitarist Duke Robillard, and sax men David “Fathead” Newman and Kaz Kazanoff.

If Texas-style jump blues are in your wheelhouse, then this is the disc for you. Both sides of Bollin’s first 78 are recreated here, the boisterous “Why Don’t You Eat Where You Slept Last Night” and the slow burning “Headlight Blues.” He sounds fantastic on Gene Phillips’ “Big Legs,” the swinging “Hey Little Girl,” Count Basie and Jimmy Rushing’s “Blues In The Dark,” Cleanhead Vinson’s “Kidney Stew,” and Percy Mayfield’s somber “Leary Blues.” Also here are his other compositions: “How Do You Want Your Rollin’ Done” and the closing instrumental, “Zu’s Blues,” acknowledging his debt to T-Bone Walker.

When listening to Texas Bluesman, it’s hard to imagine that it had been over 20 years since Zuzu Bollin had performed and nearly 40 years since he had recorded. It’s also more than a little sad that he didn’t live long enough to receive the accolades he deserved. No blues fan should be without this most excellent release.

--- Graham Clarke



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