Thursday, July 23, 2009

William Thomas Dupree, best known as Champion Jack Dupree, was an American blues pianist. His birth date is disputed, given as July 4, July 10, and July 23, in the years 1908, 1909, or 1910.

Champion Jack Dupree was the embodiment of the new Orleans blues and boogie woogie pianist, a true barrelhouse "professor". His father was from the Belgian Congo and his mother was part African American and Cherokee. He was orphaned at the age of 2 and sent to the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs (also the alma mater ofLouis Armstrong).
He taught himself piano and as a young man he began his life of travelling, living in Chicago, and Indianapolis where he met Scrapper Blackwell and Leroy Carr. Whilst he was always playing piano, he also worked as a cook, and in Detroit he met Joe Louis, who encouraged him to become a boxer. He ultimately fought in 107 bouts and winning Golden Gloves and other championships, and picking up the nickname 'Champion Jack', which he used the rest of his life.

Dupree's career was interrupted by military service in World War II. He was acook in the United States Navy and spent two years as a Japanese prisoner of war.

He sang about life, jail, drinking and drug addiction; although he himself was a light drinker and did not use other drugs. Dupree's songs included not only gloomy topics, such as "TB Blues" and "Angola Blues" (aboutAngola Prison, the infamous Louisiana prison farm, but also cheerful subjects like the "Dupree Shake Dance".

On his best known album, 1958's Blues from the Gutter for Atlantic, he was accompanied on guitar by Larry Dale, whose playing on that record inspired Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones. In later years he recorded with John Mayall, Mick Taylor and Eric Clapton.
His biggest commercial success was "Walkin' the Blues", which he recorded as a duet with Teddy McRae. This led to several national tours, and eventually to a European tour. Dupree moved to Europe in 1960, first settling in Switzerland and then Denmark, England, Sweden and, finally, Germany. During the 1970s and 1980s he lived in Halifax, England where a bronze plaque has been commissioned in his memory. He returned to the United States from time to time and appeared at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Dupree died in Hanover,Germany of cancer.
"When you open up a piano, you see freedom. Nobody can play the white keys and don't play the black keys. You got to mix all these keys together to make harmony. And that's what the whole world needs: Harmony." (Champion Jack Dupree)

Jack died on January, 1992
Click to follow him singing and playing "Weed Head Woaman"

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