Larry Bright was born Julian Ferebee Bright in Norfolk, VA, on August 17, 1934. His stepfather, a Navy man, nicknamed him "little Larry." The Bright family moved frequently around the South, finally settling in Corpus Christi, TX, where Bright learned to play the guitar. He was exposed to a musical diet comprised mainly of southern Texas blues, which later influenced everything he ever played or wrote. Bright moved to Southern California for his own somewhat brief stint in the Navy (he was released on a Section 8) and quickly established a reputation as both a dynamic guitarist and a performer with a penchant for odd behavior. He began jamming in the local clubs, including the Sea Witch, where, in 1959, he was scouted by producer Joe Saraceno (the Ventures, the Marketts), who invited Bright to lay down some tracks at Western Recorders. Once in the studio, Bright, inspired by Muddy Waters' "mojo song" (he didn't know the title) decided to make up a mojo song of his own: "Mojo Workout." After local black-owned Tide Records picked it up, the track received heavy airplay on KGFJ, the major R&B station in L.A. Jim Randolph, a black disc jockey at the station, thought Bright was a black artist and pushed him heavily. The song went on to hit number one on the black music charts in June 1960, and also charted, barely, on the Hot 100 at number 90.
After the Tide label refused to advance him any royalties (he intended to purchase a new suit for an upcoming American Bandstand appearance), Bright signed another recording contract, this one with Rendezvous Records. Tide found out and sued Rendezvous, retrieving the master tapes for a number of singles (Rendezvous, meanwhile, released Bright's "Twinkie Lee" single under the name Pete Roberts). Bright continued to record for Tide and released several more singles, including "Bloodhound," "One Ugly Child" (later covered by the Downliners Sect), and a great version of Andre Williams' "Bacon Fat." Tide later leased his contract to Del-Fi Records, which was already handling their national distribution. Del-Fi impresario Bob Keane attempted to have Bright cash in on the surf music craze of 1963, recording various surf and hot rod instrumentals, Johnny Rivers-style teen rock, and a Goffin-King penned dance number ("When I Did the Mashed Potatoes With You"). Bright continued to remain a fixture on the Sunset Strip scene and toured as the only white blues performer on an otherwise all-black tour headlined by Chuck Berry. He later worked with Lou Rawls and Roy Clark, and developed a bizarre friendship with Elvis Presley, who wanted to hire Bright as his guitarist, but eventually declined because of Bright's drinking problem. Bright remains an unknown due to his poor business dealings, legal problems, and alcohol-fueled madness. In 1995, Del-Fi collected most of his singles for a collection called Shake That Thing! ~ Bryan Thomas