Champion Jack Dupree

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Champion Jack Dupree
Champion-jack-dupree-img98- small.jpg
Dupree performing at the
Dennis Swing Club, Hamburg
Background information
Birth name William Thomas Dupree
Also known as Champion Jack Dupree, Harelip Jack Dupree
Born Disputed, 1908-10
Died January 21, 1992 (age 81-83)
Hanover, Germany
Genres Blues, boogie-woogie
Occupation(s) Pianist
Instruments Piano
Labels Atlantic, Okeh, Blue Horizon

William Thomas Dupree, best known as Champion Jack Dupree, was an American blues pianist. His birth date has been given as July 4, July 10, and July 23, 1908, 1909, or 1910. He died on January 21, 1992.


Champion Jack Dupree was a New Orleans blues and boogie-woogie pianist, a 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 two, and sent to the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs, the alma mater of Louis Armstrong.

He taught himself piano there and later apprenticed with Tuts Washington and Willie Hall,[1][2] whom he called his 'father' and from whom he learned "Junker's Blues". He was also "spy boy" for the Yellow Pochahantas tribe of Mardi Gras Indians and soon began playing in barrelhouses and other drinking establishments.

He began a life of travelling, living in Chicago, where he worked with Georgia Tom, and in Indianapolis, Indiana where he met Scrapper Blackwell and Leroy Carr. While always playing piano he also worked as a cook. In Detroit, after Joe Louis encouraged him to become a boxer, he fought in 107 bouts, 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 the age of 30 and joined a circle of recording artists, including Big Bill Broonzy and Tampa Red, who introduced him to the record producer Lester Melrose, who claimed composer credit and publishing on many of Dupree's songs. 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.

Afterwards 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.[3] During the 1970s and 1980s he lived at Ovenden in Halifax, England,[4] and a piano used by Dupree was later re-discovered at Calderdale College in Halifax.[5] Dupree continued to record in Europe with Kenn Lending Band, Louisiana Red and Axel Zwingenberger and made many live appearances, 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.

Dupree died of cancer on January 21, 1992 in Hanover, Germany.

Musical style and output[edit]

Dupree's playing was almost all straight blues and boogie-woogie. 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. Dupree would occasionally indulge in a vocalese style of sung word play, similar to Slim Gaillard's "Vout", as in his "Mr. Dupree Blues" included on The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions album.

He sang about life, jail, drinking and drug addiction; although he himself was a light drinker and did not use other drugs. His "Junker's Blues" was also transmogrified by Fats Domino into his first hit, "The Fat Man".[3] Dupree's songs included not only gloomy topics, such as "TB Blues" and "Angola Blues" (about Angola Prison, 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 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. Dupree was also noted as a raconteur and transformed many of his stories into songs. "Big Leg Emma's" takes its place in the roots of rap music as the rhymed tale of a police raid on a barrelhouse. In later years he recorded with John Mayall, Mick Taylor, Eric Clapton and The Band.[3]

Although Jerry Lee Lewis did not record Dupree's "Shake Baby Shake", the lyrics in his version of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" - "You can shake it one time for me!" - echo Dupree's song.

Although best known as a singer and pianist in the New Orleans style, Dupree occasionally pursued more musically adventurous projects, including Dupree `n` McPhee, a collaboration with English guitarist Tony McPhee, recorded for Blue Horizon Records.


  • "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."
  • "I'd rather have that piano than a wife. 'Cause that piano ain't goin' to leave me."[3]
  • From of "Oh Lawdy" by Jack Dupree (Champion Jack Dupree of New Orleans, Storyville STCD 8015, 1991)
"…If you ever had the blues, and you know this how I feel
Like this whole world against you, and nothing don’t seem to be...
White man never have the blues, he only feels bad,
Only a black man have the blues, because he has so much trouble,
And that is automatically given the blues
But I know many white men that they would like to have the blues
But they just don’t have that feeling, It feels bad all right...
Blues is a wonderful thing, when you know you don’t have nothing
You don’t have nothing to worry about…
That’s the way we live, and that’s the feeling we have all the time...
But we always have faith, that we’ll wake up tomorrow and find something
We don’t be worried about killing ourselves cause we don’t have nothing
We just sing our blues away, we sing our feeling out.
  • "Nasty Boogie Woogie" by Jack Dupree
"Mama bought a chicken, she took him for a duck
Laid him on the table with his legs stuck up
Yonder come the children with a spoon and a glass
Catch the gravy droppin' from his yes, yes, yes"
"I know you people, I know you glad you ain't one of me
I know you people glad, I know you glad you white and free
Oh yeah, white and free, oh, what will, what will become of me?
Oh I am begging, yes, I'm begging to be free"
  • "[I] found England was a heavenly place for me. I don't care who else find it difficult, but to me it's heaven. When you leave from slavery and go into a place where you're free... I couldn't go back there, because anybody that spit on me, I'd kill them."[6]


Original 10" shellac (78rpm) and 7" vinyl (45rpm) releases[edit]

  • OKeh 05656 Warehouse Man Blues/Chain Gang Blues (1940)
  • OKeh 05713 Black Woman Swing/Cabbage Greens (No. 1) (1940)
  • OKeh 05769 Gamblin' Man Blues/New Low Down Dog (1940)
  • OKeh 05823 Cabbage Greens (No. 2)/Angola Blues (1940)
  • OKeh 06068 My Baby's Gone/That's All Right (1941)
  • OKeh 06104 Dupree Shake Dance/Gibing Blues (1941)
  • OKeh 06152 Junker Blues/My Cabin Inn (1941)
  • OKeh 06197 Weed Head Woman/Bad Health Blues (1941)
  • OKeh 06597 Big Time Mama/Heavy Heart Blues (1941/rel. 1942)
  • OKeh 06642 All Alone Blues/Black Cow Blues (1941/rel. 1942)
  • Joe Davis 5100 She Makes Good Jelly/Rum Cola Blues (1945)
  • Joe Davis 5101 Johnson Street Boogie Woogie/I'm Going Down With You (1945)
  • Joe Davis 5102 F.D.R. Blues/God Bless Our New President (1945)
  • Joe Davis 5103 County Jail Special/Fisherman's Blues (1945)
  • Joe Davis 5104 Lover's Lane/Black Wolf (1945)
  • Joe Davis 5105 Walkin' By Myself/Outside Man (1945)
  • Joe Davis 5106 Forget It Mama/You've Been Drunk (1945)
  • Joe Davis 5107 Santa Claus Blues/Gin Mill Sal (1945)
  • Solo 10-014 Once I Had A Girl/Black Woman Blues (1945)
  • Continental 6064 How Long, How Long Blues/I Think You Need A Shot (1945)
  • Continental 6065 Let's Have A Ball/Hard Feeling (1945)
  • Continental 6066 Going Down Slow/Mean Old Frisco (1945)
  • Lenox 505 Bad Whiskey And Wild Women/Bus Station Blues (1945)
  • Lenox 511 Mean Old Frisco/When You Ain't Got A Dime (1945) note: Jack and Brownie McGhee recording under the alias "Blind Boy Johnson & His Rhythms"
  • Joe Davis 5108 Love Strike Blues/Wet Deck Mama (1946)
  • Celebrity 2012 Big Legged Mama/I'm A Doctor For Women (1946) note: Celebrity is a Joe Davis subsidiary label.
  • Alert 207 Cecelia, Cecelia/Going Down To The Bottom (1946) note: Jack and Brownie McGhee recording under the alias "Willie Jordan & His Swinging Five"
  • Alert 421 Fifth Avenue Blues/Highway 31 (1946)
  • Apollo 407 Come Back Baby/Chittlins & Rice (1949)
  • Apollo 413 One Sweet Letter/Mean Mistreatin' Mama (1949)
  • Apollo 421 Lonesome Bedroom Blues/Old Woman Blues (1949)
  • Abbey 3015 Featherweight Mama/Day Break (1949) note: Jack and Brownie McGhee recording under the alias "Brother Blues & The Back Room Boys"
  • Abbey 3024 Day Break/Pete's Boogie (1949) note: Jack and Brownie McGhee recording under the alias "Brother Blues & The Back Room Boys"
  • Apollo 426 Deacon's Party/My Baby's Coming Back Home (1950) note: Jack recording with "Big Chief Ellis & His Blues Stars"
  • Apollo 428 Just Plain Tired/I'm Gonna Find You Some Day (1950) note: Jack recording with "Big Chief Ellis & His Blues Stars"
  • Apollo 440 Rub A Little Boogie/Doomed (1949/rel. 1950) note: Jack and Brownie McGhee recording under the alias "Duke Bayou & His Mystic Six"
  • Apex 1110 Goin' Back To Louisiana/Barrel House Mama (1950) note: Jack and Brownie McGhee recording under the alias "Meat Head Johnson & His Blues Hounds"
  • Gotham 514 Old, Old Woman/Mean Black Woman (1950) note: Jack and Brownie McGhee recording under the alias "Meat Head Johnson & His Blues Hounds"
  • Derby 783 The Woman I Love/All Night Party (1951) note: Jack and Brownie McGhee recording under Brownie's name
  • King 4483 Heartache Blues/Real Good Feelin (1951) note: Jack and Brownie McGhee recording under the alias "Big Tom Collins"
  • King 4568 Heart Breaking Woman/Watchin' My Stuff (1951) note: Jack and Brownie McGhee recording under the alias "Big Tom Collins"
  • Red Robin 109 Stumbling Block Blues/Number Nine Blues (1953)
  • Red Robin 112 Highway Blues/Shake Baby Shake (1953)
  • Red Robin 130 Drunk Again/Shim Sham Shimmy (1953/rel. 1954)
  • King 4633 The Blues Got Me Rockin'/Tongue Tied Blues (1953)
  • King 4651 Ain't No Meat On De Bone/Please Tell Me Baby (1953)
  • King 4695 Walkin' Upside Your Head/Hard Feeling (1953)
  • King 4706 Rub A Little Boogie/Camille (1953)
  • King 4779 Two Below Zero/Blues For Everybody (1955)
  • King 4797 Harelip Blues/Let The Doorbell Ring (1955)
  • King 4812 Walking The Blues/Daybreak Rock (v: Teddy "Mr. Bear" McRae) (1955)
  • King 4827 That's My Pa/Stumbling Block (1955)
  • King 4859 She Cooks Me Cabbage/Silent Partner (1955)
  • King 4876 Failing Health Blues/Me And My Mule (1955)
  • King 4906 Overhead Blues/So Sorry, So Sorry (1955/rel. 1956)
  • King 4938 Mail Order Woman/Big Leg Emma's (1955/rel. 1956)
  • Groove 0171 Lonely Road Blues (v: Teddy "Mr. Bear" McRae)/When I Got Married (1956)
  • Vik 0260 Dirty Woman/Just Like A Woman (1957)
  • Vik 0279 Old Time Rock And Roll/Rocky Mountain (1957)
  • Vik 0304 Shake Baby Shake/Lollipop Baby (1957)
  • Atlantic 2032 Frankie And Johnny/Strollin' (1959)
  • Atlantic 2095 My Mother-In-Law/Evil Woman (1961)
  • Federal 12408 Sharp Harp/Two Below Zero (1955/rel. 1961)

12" LPs[edit]

  • Blues from the Gutter (1958, Atlantic SD-8019 (US); London/Atlantic LTZ-K15171 (UK)) -CD release: Atlantic/Rhino #075678243424
  • Champion Jack's Natural & Soulful Blues (1961, Atlantic SD-8045 (US); London/Atlantic SAH-K6151 (UK)) -CD release: Collectables #6818
  • The Women Blues Of Champion Jack Dupree (1961, Folkways Records FS-3825)[7] -CD release: Smithsonian Folkways/Rounder #093070382527
  • Sings The Blues (1961, King LP-735) compilation
  • Champion Jack Dupree (1962, Archive Of Folk Music/Everest Records FS-217)
  • Champion Of The Blues (1963, Atlantic SD-8056) -CD release: Collectables #6818
  • Americans in Europe Vol. 2 (1963, Impulse! Records A-37)
  • Cabbage Greens (1963, Okeh OKM-12103) compilation
  • From New Orleans To Chicago (1966, London PS-553 (US); Decca LK-4747 (UK)) -CD release: Beat Goes On #649
  • Champion Jack Dupree And His Blues Band Featuring Mickey Baker (1967, Decca SKL-4871 (UK)) -CD release: Beat Goes On #649
  • Tricks (AKA 'Anthologie du Blues, Vol. 1') (1968, Vogue CLVLX-271; GNP Crescendo 10001 (US))
  • When You Feel The Feeling You Was Feeling (1968, Blue Horizon/CBS BH-7702) -CD release: Blue Horizon #90007
  • Scooby Dooby Doo (AKA 'Blues Masters, Vol. 10') (1969, Blue Horizon/CBS BH-4610) -CD release: Blue Horizon #90007
  • The Incredible...Champion Jack Dupree (1970, Sonet SNTF-614)
  • I'm Happy To Be Free - Champion Jack Dupree Meets Mickey Baker & Hal Singer (1971, Vogue SDL-828; GNP Crescendo 10005 (US))
  • The Legacy Of The Blues, Vol. 3 (1972, Sonet SNTF-626; GNP Crescendo 10013 (US))
  • Blues at Montreux - King Curtis & Champion Jack Dupree (1973, Atlantic 1637) - CD release: Atlantic 81389-2 Collectables #6331 [1]
  • Blues For Everybody (1976, King KS-1084 (single LP); 1980, King/Gusto GD-5037X (double LP)) compilation -CD release: See For Miles/King Masters (UK) #KCD-6014
  • Back Home In New Orleans (1990, Bullseye Blues/Rounder Records BB-9502) -LP/CD release
  • Forever And Ever (1991, Bullseye Blues/Rounder BB-9512) -LP/CD release
  • One Last Time (1993, Bullseye Blues/Rounder BB-9522) -LP/CD release

CD releases/compilations of note[edit]

  • Sings Blues Classics - With Axel Zwingenberger & The Friends Of Boogie Woogie, Vol. 7 (1990, Vagabond (Germany) #8.92018)
  • Blues Masters, Vol. 6 (1991, Storyville #8006)
  • New Orleans Barrelhouse: Piano Blues 1960 (1992, Magpie #53)
  • Champion Jack Dupree 1945-1953 (1992, Krazy Kat #08, and #09)
  • Trouble, Trouble (1992, Storyville #8013)
  • Champion Jack Dupree Of New Orleans (1993, Storyville #8015)
  • New Orleans Barrelhouse Boogie (The Complete Champion Jack Dupree 1940-1941) (1993, Legacy/Columbia-Sony #52834)
  • Live At Burnley - With The Big Town Playboys (1994, JSP #231; 1998 reissue with new artwork: JSP #807) rec. 1989
  • The Joe Davis Sessions 1945-1946 (1995, Flyright #22)
  • The Blues Of Champion Jack Dupree, Vol. 1 (1995, Storyville #8019)
  • The Blues Of Champion Jack Dupree, Vol. 2 (1995, Storyville #8020)
  • Truckin' On Down (1998, Storyville #8029)
  • The Blues Of Champion Jack Dupree (2000, Storyville #8031)
  • A Portrait Of Champion Jack Dupree (2000, Rounder Select/Rounder #11586)
  • St. Claude And Dumaine (2002, Fuel 2000/Varese Sarabande #61229)
  • Jivin' With Jack: Live In Manchester, May 1966 (2002, Jasmine #3008) -2CD set
  • Bad Luck Blues - Live With Freeway 75 (2003, Blue Nose (Switzerland) #BN-074) rec. 1974
  • Walkin' The Blues: The Very Best Of Champion Jack Dupree (2003, Collectables #2874)
  • Dupree 'N' McPhee: The 1967 Blue Horizon Session - Champion Jack Dupree & T.S. "Tony" McPhee (2005, Ace #CHM-1063)
  • The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions - Champion Jack Dupree (2005, Sony #5185162, and Blue Horizon #90007)
  • Early Cuts From A Singer, Pianist And Songwriter Who Took Blues To The World (2009, JSP #77120) -4CD box set


External links[edit]