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Champion Jack Dupree (1908/09/10-1992)

Champion Jack Dupree

A Real Champion

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. He died January 21, 1992. 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 a Creole of color and part Cherokee. He was orphaned at the age of 2 and sent to the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs (also the alma mater of Louis Armstrong). He taught himself piano there and later apprenticed with Tuts Washington and the legendary Drive'em Down, whom he called his "father" and from whom he learned Junker's Blues. He was also "spy boy" for the Yellow Pochahantas tribe of Mardis Gras Indians and soon began playing in barrelhouses, drinking establishments organized around barrels of booze. As a young man he began his life of travelling, living in Chicago, where he worked with Georgia Tom and Indianapolis, Indiana, where he hooked up with Scrapper Blackwell and Leroy Carr. While 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. He returned to Chicago at age 30 and joined a circle of recording artists, including Big Bill Broonzy and Tampa Red who introduced him to legendary blues record producer Lester Melrose, who claimed composer credit and publishing on many of Champion Jack Dupree's songs. Champion Jack Dupree's playing is almost all straight blues and boogie woogie, with no ballads or pop songs, not even blues ballads. 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. Champion Jack 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. 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").Champion Jack Dupree was also noted as a raconteur and transformed many of his stories into songs. In later years he recorded with John Mayall, Mick Taylor, and Eric Clapton. Although Jerry Lee Lewis did not record Dupree's Shake Baby Shake as suggested by some sources, the lyrics in his version of Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On echo the title of Champion Jack Dupree's song. Indeed, Champion Jack Dupree's 1957 rerelease of Shake Baby Shake may have been a response to the success of Jerry Lee Lewis's record in that year. Champion Jack Dupree's career was interrupted by military service in World War II. He was a cook in the United States Navy and spent two years as a Japanese prisoner of war. His biggest commercial success was Walkin' the Blues, which he recorded as a duet with Mr. Bear. This led to several national tours, and eventually to a European tour. Champion Jack Dupree moved to Europe permanently 1959, the first of many blues stars to make the move to a less racially prejudiced environment. He continued to record in Europe and also made many live appearances there, also still working as a cook specializing in New Orleans cuisine. He returned to the United States from time to time and appeared at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. He died in Hanover, Germany of cancer. (quoted from

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Champion Jack Dupree Tribute Pages

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Various Articles on Champion Jack Dupree

Champion Jack Dupree Lyrics

Champion Jack Dupree Discographies

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