Hometown: Chicago, IL
“The great Robbie Fulks: a Chicago area country/alt-country genius. Why are you still listening to me? You should be going on iTunes (or from the Bloodshot website--ed.) right now. R-O-B-B-I-E. F-U-L-K-S. Buy it, buy everything.” – TINA FEY!!!
"There are many good living songwriters. But then you hear a new Robbie Fulks record, and you can’t remember who they are." --Chicago Reader
"My favorite songwriters can break my heart and/or make me laugh: Noel Coward, Loudon Wainwright, Randy Newman, very few others. Robbie Fulks has joined that august company. He sits a mean guitar, too, and sings like he learned from the C&W greats and made it his own, which is exactly what he did." – Michael McKean (you know David St Hubbins from Spinal Tap? Lenny from Laverne & Shirley?)
"Fulks is a gifted guitarist, a soulful singer with an expressive honky-tonk tenor, and a natural performer. But what really sets him apart is his songwriting, which is one part artful country, one part artful sendup of country, and one part a little of everything else... It's sort of country meets David Lynch." --New York Times
"Robbie Fulks knows better than most that country music needs a touch of Viet Cong attitude: Sometimes you've got to burn the village in order to save it." --Playboy
"If country music has an Elvis Costello, it's Robbie Fulks, who marries Ivy League cleverness to an appreciation of hillbilly music that actual hillbillies could only envy."--Entertainment Weekly
"America’s most unjustly unsung singer/songwriter."---SPIN
"Fulks's voice has a ringing power." --NPR
"…a masterly, multifaceted songwriter who can belt out hip-shaking honky tonk, honeydew pop and chilling little ballads with an unrivaled skill and spirit. So good, he's scary."---Chicago Tribune
"I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute to say Robbie Fulks is the best country artist in Chicago—what bothers me is that the title seems so inadequate."---Chicago Reader
"If Robbie Fulks were the prime ambassador of country music, we'd all be country-music fans. His songwriting and guitar picking have their roots in country but stretch their curlicue branches toward bluegrass, rock 'n' roll, jazz, experimental, and more. And his wit, both in lyrics and stage banter, is unmatched by almost any live musician working today."---Seattle Stranger
"Fulks is comfortable with the sum of country music, from the goofiest lark to the most funereal dirge." —The AV Club
"What’s so invigorating to observe in Fulks isn’t an adherence to some stuffy notion of orthodoxy, it’s how little he gives a crap about anyone else’s notion of great music other than his own." --PopMatters
Robbie plays by nobody's rules--except the ones he hears in his head. He is prodigiously talented, with the soul of a country singer and the mind of a vaudevillian. Besides, his scorn for the music industry makes ours look positively prosaic. But don't let that make you lose sight of THE SONGS.
Widely regarded by those who monitor such things as one of the most gifted songwriters to ever ply the trade, he can sing "Eggs" and "Sing a Sad Song" back to back and mean 'em both. While it is true he started off a honky tonk smartass, it quickly became evident that Robbie was a monster talent and some of his early Bloodshot albums have been rightly elevated to the status of "classic" and serve as their own Greatest Hits collections. Seriously.
It is a damning condemnation of our world's musical taste that he has not been elevated to the ranks of the multi-faceted giants of songwriting like Nick Lowe and Dave Alvin and Harlan Howard. He damn well should be. Lost in the deserved accolades for being a fabulously unique, clever, and heartfelt writer is the fact that he's also one of the best guitarists around. The chameleon-like tall guy can whip it out in honky-tonk, country, bluegrass, power pop, or whatever strikes his ample whimsy at the time.
Robbie Fulks was born in York, Pennsylvania, and grew up in a half-dozen small towns in southeast Pennsylvania, the North Carolina Piedmont, and the Blue Ridge area of Virginia. He learned guitar from his dad, banjo from Earl Scruggs and John Hartford records, and ﬁddle (long since laid down in disgrace) on his own. He attended Columbia College in New York City in 1980 and dropped out in 1982 to focus on the Greenwich Village songwriter scene and other ill-advised pursuits.
In the mid-1980s he moved to Chicago and joined Greg Cahill’s Special Consensus Bluegrass Band, with whom he made one record (Hole in My Heart, Turquoise, 1989) and toured constantly. Since then he has gone on to create a multifarious career in music. He was a staff instructor in guitar and ensemble at Old Town School of Folk Music from 1984 to 1996. He worked on Nashville’s Music Row as a staff songwriter for Songwriters Ink (Joe Difﬁe, Tim McGraw, Ty Herndon) from 1993 to 1998. He has released solo records on the Bloodshot, Geffen, Boondoggle (self), and Yep Roc labels.
Radio: multiple appearances on WSM’s “Grand Ole Opry”; PRI’s “Whadd’ya Know”; NPR’s “Fresh Air,” “Mountain Stage,” and “World Cafe”; and the syndicated “Acoustic Cafe” and “Laura Ingraham Show.” TV: PBS’s Austin City Limits; NBC’s Today, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and 30 Rock. TV/ﬁlm use of his music includes True Blood, My Name Is Earl, Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole, Very Bad Things, and Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, and he has voiced or sung campaigns for Budweiser, McDonalds, Nickelodeon, and Applebees. From 2004 to 2008 he hosted an hourlong performance/ interview program for XM satellite radio, “Robbie’s Secret Country.” His compositions have been covered by Sam Bush, Kelly Hogan, Sally Timms, Rosie Flores, John Cowan, and Old 97s.
Robbie’s writing on music and life have appeared in GQ, Blender, the Chicago Reader, DaCapo Press’s Best Music Writing anthologies for 2001 and 2004, Ampliﬁed: Fiction from Leading Alt-Country, Indie Rock, Blues and Folk Musicians, and A Guitar and A Pen: Stories by Country Music’s Greatest Songwriters. As an instrumentalist, he has accompanied the Irish ﬁddle master Liz Carroll, the distinguished jazz violinist Jenny Scheinman, and the New Orleans pianist Dr. John. As a producer his credits include Touch My Heart: A Tribute to Johnny Paycheck (Sugar Hill, 2004) and Big Thinkin’ by Dallas Wayne (Hightone, 2000). Theatrical credits include “Woody Guthrie’s American Song” and Harry Chapin’s “Cottonpatch Gospel.” He served twice as judge for the Winﬁeld National Flatpicking Guitar competition. He tours yearlong with various conﬁgurations and plays a weekly residency at the Hideout in Chicago.
Live performance of "Dirty-Mouthed Flo" on the DVD Bloodied But Unbowed: Bloodshot Records' Life In The Trenches.
"Dirty-Mouthed Flo" performed live on the Bloodied But Unbowed: The Soundtrack
"Tears at the Grand Ol' Opry" on Hard-Headed Woman: A Celebration of Wanda Jackson
"Cigarette State" on For a Life of Sin
"She Took a Lot of Pills (and Died)" on Hell-Bent
"Wedding of the Bugs" (studio version) on Straight Outta Boone County
"Call of the Wrecking Ball" on Poor Little Knitter on the Road
"Across the Alley from the Alamo" on Salute the Majesty of Bob Wills
"Bloodshot's Turning 5" on Down to the Promised Land
"Browns Ferry Blues" on Old Town School Songbook: Volume One
"Godfrey" on The Bottle Let Me Down
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