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Notes on the Songs

Jesse Fuller

and his fotdella

Cruising the internet I have found some good and some bad information regarding Jesse "The Lone Cat" Fuller from Oakland, California and Atlanta, Georgia; and his unique bass instrument, the fotdella.

Some folks say it's a corruption of "foot diddler" coined by his wife. OK, whatever a foot diddler is. Then someone else goes on to consider that that diddler thing is the only correct version and anything else must be a mockery of The Lone Cat's accent, tantamount to black-face comedy.

This prompts me to respond.

From 1969 to 1971, I worked the Smithsonian folk festival as a stage manager and I can report J"TLC"F's own comments. In the wording, let"s allow for memory of a day so many years upstream, but I'll vouch for the details.

"This here"s a fahdella, That's F-O-T-D-E-L-L-A, fahdella. What it is, is I had a grandson that was real sick when he was 8 years old, and I made him a coffin. Then he didn't die and I made a fotdella out of it."

I hope that clears everything up.

Setting J"TLC"F up on stage was a trip and a half. He's on a stool with an electric 12-string running back to his amp. Since this is clearly not enough bass, with his bestockinged right big toe he doubles the roots of the chords on the fotdella, a sort of upright box with bass strings and a piano-style hammer action. With his left foot he plays a high-hat. Then, on his harmonica rack there's a kazoo, a harmonica, and a mic that's hooked up to his amp. When he's ready, we have to set 3 stage mics before I hit the announce mic and say, "And now, here's blues great, Jesse Fuller."

At which point he pipes up and says, "No, no, no! That's Jesse "The Lone Cat" Fuller from Oakland, California and Atlanta, Georgia." So what can I say but, "um,,...uh,... Ladies and gentlemen, the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife is proud to present, Jesse "The Lone Cat" Fuller from Oakland, California and Atlanta, Georgia."

So you see, I've learned my lesson.

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