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Fred McMullen

A shadowy figure, McMullen recorded for ARC in New York in January 1933, playing immaculate bottleneck blues guitar, whether behind his own vocals or with one or other of the Atlanta guitarists Curley Weaver and Buddy Moss. They also recorded as a trio, with Moss on harmonica. McMullen was listed only once in the 1932 Atlanta City Directory, and Moss maintained that he had returned to his home town of Macon, Georgia, after the session. The intensity of ‘De Kalb Chain Gang’ (‘They whipped me and they slashed me, forty-five all in my side’) suggests that it was autobiographical, and that he may have been on his way home following release from prison when he encountered the Atlanta musicians.

Fred McMullen, b. 1905 in Florida, d. February 1960, blues singer-guitarist known to be active in the 1930s. He recorded with guitarists Curley Weaver and Buddy Moss before disappearing from any further definitive documentation about his life or whereabouts.

McMullen was born in Florida sometime in 1905. Little else is known about his life prior to McMullen's recording sessions with Weaver and Moss, except that he spent time incarcerated at DeKalb County, Georgia convict camp. McMullen, who may have settled in Macon after being released from prison, was a regular performer at the 81 Theater in Atlanta where he first encountered Weaver and Moss. According to Kate McTell in an interview, McMullen was responsible for introducing Moss to her husband, guitarist Blind Willie McTell, initiating later collaborations between the two. She also insinuated Georgia White penned songs for McMullen while in Atlanta. Between January 16 and 19, 1933, McMullen joined Weaver, Moss, and Ruth Willis for recording sessions in New York City. Providing bottleneck guitar accompaniment tuned in open G, McMullen also sang lead on "Joker Man Blues" and "Next Door Man", which was released Vocalion Records and credited to "Jim Miller". He also was the main guitarist on several tracks, including "Wait and Listen", a song with a striking resemblance to Tommy Johnson's style, and "Roll Mama", where McMullen and Weaver provide simultaneous guitar solos. On the final day of the sessions, McMullen joined Weaver and Ross to record as the Georgia Browns, releasing "It Must Have Been Her" and "Who Stole De Lock?". McMullen apparently moved on after the sessions concluded, never to record again. The Atlanta city directory listed him once in 1932, filing his name as MacMullin. Moss recalled very little about McMullen, but speculated he returned to Macon. Although no death record of him exists, blues historian Bob L. Eagle hypothesized he could be the same Fred McMullen who died in February 1960. Much of his work has appeared on compilation albums like Country Blues Classics, Volume 1, Georgia Blues 1927-1930, Some Cold, Rainy Day, and Bottleneck Blues Guitar Classics 1926-37.