Born Emmit Ellis, Jr., in Homer, LA, Rush moved in the early ‘50s to Chicago, where he became a popular live performer in clubs across the South and West Sides, often working two or three bookings a night. A bassist as well as vocalist, Rush led bands that included legendary guitarists including Freddy King, Luther Allison, and Earl Hooker. Rush’s recording career took off in the ‘60s after he cut his funk-blues classic “Chicken Heads” for Galaxy. After recording for labels including Checker, Ronn, ABC, Philadelphia International, LaJam, and Ichiban, Rush moved in the ‘90s to leading soul-blues label Malaco Records.
A star on the “chitlin’ circuit” for decades, in the ‘90s Rush began steadily gaining new mainstream audiences, who were enthralled with Rush’s dynamic and risqué stage show, which feature dancers and frequent costume changes. Prior to his appearance in the Scorsese series, Rush won multiple Living Blues Awards for best live performer, and in 2000 received a Grammy nomination for his album Hoochie Man.