Blues Brother: Louisiana Legend Bobby Rush Lets It All Hang Out In New York City

MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski had the good fortune of spending time with Bobby Rush in New York City. The Grammy-winning blues legend was in the Big Apple for a show at City Winery, promoting his new book.

I had the great honor to hang with Bobby Rush the afternoon of June 28. It felt like 105 degrees in New York City, but I guess that ain’t nothing for someone raised in Louisiana. “It’s a nice cool day,” Bobby said with a grin.

At 87, the man seems indestructible. We climbed three sets of stairs to the Highline (downtown’s ancient elevated train track turned tourist trap), and I didn’t see him struggle once. Meanwhile, I was about ready to croak.

Bobby had COVID early—in February of last year—and doctors in Mississippi discharged him after half a day, telling him it was more dangerous for him inside the hospital than out.

The track remnants still visible in the Highline recalled his days working as a switchman in Louisiana. As we snapped pix, Bobby spoke of coming to NYC for the first time in the 1950s with Ray Charles and the lessons he learned from Ray. All this stuff is in his new book, I Ain’t Studdin’ Ya: My American Blues Story, which he was promoting at City Winery that night.

If Bobby has a mantra, it’s, “If I can do it, you can too!” I heard him say it several times. The man is an inspiration and a kind, egoless soul. It was a joy to hang with him.