CHAMPION JACK DUPREE BIOGRAPHY
William Thomas Dupree (birth date disputed; died January 21, 1992, in Hanover, Germany), best known as Champion Jack Dupree, was an American blues pianist. He was the embodiment of the New Orleans blues and boogie woogie pianist. On his best known album, Blues from the Gutter, for Atlantic in 1959, he was accompanied on guitar by Larry Dale, whose playing on that record inspired Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones. Although best known as a singer and pianist in the New Orleans style, Dupree occasionally pursued more musically adventurous projects, including Dupree
McPhee, a collaboration with English guitarist Tony McPhee.
Dupree’s birth date is disputed, given as July 4, July 10, and July 23, in the years 1908, 1909, or 1910. He died January 21, 1992, in Hanover, Germany. Dupree’s playing is almost all straight blues and boogie woogie, with no ballads or pop songs, not even blues ballads. He was not a sophisticated musician or singer, but he had a wry and clever way with words: “Mama, move your false teeth, papa wanna scratch your gums.” He sometimes sang as if he had a cleft palate and even recorded under the name Harelip Jack Dupree. This was an artistic conceit, as Dupree had excellent clear articulation, particularly for a blues singer.
He sang about life as he found it, singing about jail, drinking, drug addiction, although he himself was a light drinker and did not use other drugs. His “Junker’s Blues” is still sung in New Orleans, and was also transmogrified by Fats Domino into his first hit “The Fat Man”. Dupree’s songs included not only gloomy topics, such as “TB Blues” and “Angola Blues” (about the infamous Louisiana prison farm), but also cheerful subjects like the “Dupree Shake Dance”: “Come on, mama, on your hands and knees, do that shake dance as you please”.
On his best known LP, 1958’s “Blues from the Gutter” for Atlantic, he was accompanied on guitar by Larry Dale, whose playing on that LP inspired Brian Jones (of Rolling Stones fame) (“Yeah! I have to play this… what a sound”).
It seemed that Dupree could not escape from the prejudice and racism anywhere he settled in the United States. Finally in late 1958, he decided to move to Europe. Over the next 32 years, he lived in a number of locales in Switzerland, France, England, Denmark and Germany. He also recorded a multitude of wonderful albums during this time for a long list of European labels. Among these is the outstanding live recording, “Blues at Montreaux” on Atco that also featured sax great, King Curtis.
He died from complications of cancer on January 21, 1992 in Hanover.