Sunday, November 29, 2009

"San Francisco Bay Blues" in Queens without Fotdella

Steve Suffet performing "San Francisco Bay Blues" by Jesse Fuller at the Kew Gardens Music Festival in Queens, New York City. March 7, 2009
The fotdella was an instrument invented and constructed by Jesse "The Lone Cat" Fuller, an American one-man-band musician, who needed an accompaniment instrument beyond the usual high-hat (foot-operated cymbal) or bass drum favored by street musicians. Dreaming it up in the early 1950s, while lying in bed, he set about constructing a foot-operated bass instrument. It ended up as a large upright box with a rounded top, vaguely shaped like the top of a double bass, with a short neck on top. Six bass strings were attached to the neck and stretched over the body.

To play the instrument, there was a homemade set of foot pedals, each one bringing a padded hammer to strike a string when depressed, like the action of a piano. With these six bass notes, Fuller could accompany himself on the 12-string guitar in several keys.
The name "fotdella" was given to the instrument by Fuller's wife, who took to calling it a "foot-diller" (as in the then-current expression, "killer-diller", meaning exceedingly good); later, it became shortened to just fotdella.

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