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Cincinnati piano man ‘BIG’ JOE DUSKIN is the reigning king of the blues in the Queen City. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1921, Duskin grew up in Cincinnati, where he began playing piano at an early age in his preacher father’s church. Young Joe was keenly interested in the blues of Roosevelt Sykes and Memphis Slim and the boogie-woogie of Pete Johnson, but his father viewed that as “the Devil’s music.” Finally, they came to a truce when Joe promised his septuagenarian father that he wouldn’t play the blues while his father was alive. Reverend Perry Duskin lived to be 105, so Joe Duskin had a career as a policeman and postal worker instead of a blues musician.

BIG JOE DUSKIN Career revival

Duskin began playing again in the 1970s, delighting club and festival audiences with his powerhouse mix of blues, boogie-woogie and barrelhouse piano. His first album, an instant classic called Cincinnati Stomp, was released by Arhoolie in 1979, making Big Joe an international blues star at the age of 58. He began making annual tours through France and Germany and played the major U.S. festivals, including the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the Chicago Blues Festival. Duskin’s subsequent recordings have included Don’t Mess with the Boogie Man, Down the Road a Piece and his most recent, Big Joe Jumps Again, was nominated for a W.C. Handy Award. Last summer, Duskin was presented a Key to the City by Cincinnati’s mayor.

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big joe duskin blues biography