Wilbur White was a nightclub singer on the South Side of Chicago whose bluesy growl wielded so much power that he was nicknamed Hi-Fi. He’d been in the clubs since the 1950s, and although I hear he put on a knockout of a show, that never translated into record sales. Speaking of knockouts, he played bit roles on Sanford & Son and in the boxing-in-prison movie Penitentiary (1979). In the film, he was cast as the gap-toothed Sweet Pea. Behind the scenes, the film was so under-budget that White took initiative and collected food stamps from cast and crew, becoming the production’s official caterer. He fed over one hundred actors and technical staffers for the final week of shooting. That’s good ol’ Chicago can-do!
here’s a clip of perhaps his signature number, Bulldog.
and here’s the trailer for the film:
NOTE: view the comments on this post for first hand stories and recollections…
The year is 1969 on the South Side of Chicago (21st & Michigan). Marshall Chess (son of Leonard Chess), has taken the helm at Chess Records (the Seminal Chicago Blues/Jazz/Gospel label). A fairly hip young cat, Marshall realizes that the hottest acts in popular music at the time borrowed (or gangstered) heavily from the roster at Chess: Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter (even Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley). His offensive move was to re-record the blues giants in a psychedelic blues style popular with groups like Cream (featuring Eric Clapton). He also recorded newer, younger, more tripped-out acts. Among them, Black Merda and Fugi (backed by Black Merda), a black rock collective from Detroit (that was still reeling from riots the year before). Above is “Revelations”, one of two records released through Chess/Cadet under the name Fugi (alternately spelled as Fuji). There will be much more on this blog about this topic; but in the mean time…Jive on.