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 Harelip Jack Dupree
Born (1910-07-04)July 4, 1910 (probable)
Irish Channel, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Died January 21, 1992(1992-01-21) (aged 81)
Hanover, Germany
Genres Blues, boogie-woogie
Occupation(s) Pianist
Instruments Piano
Labels Atlantic, Okeh, Blue Horizon

William Thomas "Champion Jack" Dupree (July 23, 1909,[1] or July 4, 1910[2] – January 21, 1992) was an American blues and boogie-woogie pianist and singer. His nickname was derived from his early career as a boxer.


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. His birth date has been given as July 4, July 10, and July 23, 1908, 1909,[1] or 1910; the researchers Bob Eagle and Eric LeBlanc give July 4, 1910.[2]

He was orphaned at the age of eight and was sent to the Colored Waifs Home in New Orleans, an institution for orphaned or delinquent boys (about the same time, Louis Armstrong was also sent there as a child, after being arrested as a "dangerous and suspicious character"[3]). Dupree taught himself to play the piano there and later apprenticed with Tuts Washington and Willie Hall,[4][5] whom he called his father and from whom he learned "Junker's Blues". He was also "spy boy" for the Yellow Pocahontas tribe of the 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. He also worked as a cook. In Detroit, after Joe Louis encouraged him to become a boxer, he fought 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. Many of Dupree's songs were later credited to Melrose as composer, and Melrose claimed publishing rights to them.

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

After the war, 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 a European tour. In 1959 he played an unofficial (and unpaid) duo gig with Alexis Korner at the London School of Economics.

Dupree moved to Europe in 1960, settling first in Switzerland and then Denmark, England, Sweden and, finally, Germany.[6] On June 17, 1971 he played at the Montreux Jazz Festival, in the Casino Kursaal, with King Curtis, backed by Cornell Dupree on guitar, Jerry Jemmott on bass and Oliver Jackson on drums. The recording of the concert was later released as the 1973 album King Curtis & Champion Jack Dupree – Blues At Montreux on the Atlantic label.[7]

During the 1970s and 1980s he lived at Ovenden in Halifax, England[8] and a piano he used was later discovered at Calderdale College in Halifax.[9] He continued to record in Europe with Kenn Lending Band, Louisiana Red and Axel Zwingenberger and made many live appearances. He also worked again as a cook, specializing in New Orleans cuisine. He returned to the United States from time to time and performed 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 he had clear articulation, particularly for a blues singer. He 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 album The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions.

Many of his songs were about jail, drinking and drug addiction, although he himself was a light drinker and did not use other drugs. His "Junker's Blues" was transmuted by Fats Domino into "The Fat Man", Domino's first hit record.[6] Some of Dupree's songs had gloomy topics, such as "TB Blues" and "Angola Blues" (about Angola Prison, the infamous Louisiana prison farm), but he also sang about cheerful subjects, as in "Dupree Shake Dance": "Come on, mama, on your hands and knees, do that shake dance as you please". He was a noted raconteur and transformed many of his stories into songs, such as "Big Leg Emma's", a rhymed tale of a police raid on a barrelhouse.

The lyrics of Jerry Lee Lewis's version of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On"—"You can shake it one time for me!"—echo Dupree's song "Shake Baby Shake".

On his best-known album, Blues from the Gutter, released by Atlantic Records in 1959, he was accompanied on guitar by Larry Dale, whose playing on that record inspired Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones.

In later years Dupree recorded with John Mayall, Mick Taylor, Eric Clapton and The Band.[6]

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 the English guitarist Tony McPhee, recorded for Blue Horizon Records.


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

  • "Warehouse Man Blues" / "Chain Gang Blues", 1940 (OKeh 05656)
  • "Black Woman Swing" / "Cabbage Greens (No. 1)", 1940 (OKeh 05713)
  • "Gamblin' Man Blues" / "New Low Down Dog", 1940 (OKeh 05769)
  • "Cabbage Greens (No. 2)" / "Angola Blues", 1940 (OKeh 05823)
  • "My Baby's Gone" / "That's All Right", 1941 (OKeh 06068)
  • "Dupree Shake Dance" / "Gibing Blues", 1941 (OKeh 06104)
  • "Junker Blues" / "My Cabin Inn", 1941 (OKeh 06152)
  • "Weed Head Woman" / "Bad Health Blues", 1941 (OKeh 06197)
  • "Big Time Mama" / "Heavy Heart Blues", 1941, released 1942 (OKeh 06597)
  • "All Alone Blues" / "Black Cow Blues", 1941, released 1942 (OKeh 06642)
  • "She Makes Good Jelly" / "Rum Cola Blues", 1945 (Joe Davis 5100)
  • "Johnson Street Boogie Woogie" / "I'm Going Down with You", 1945 (Joe Davis 5101)
  • "F.D.R. Blues" / "God Bless Our New President", 1945 (Joe Davis 5102)
  • "County Jail Special" / "Fisherman's Blues", 1945 (Joe Davis 5103)
  • "Lover's Lane" / "Black Wolf", 1945 (Joe Davis 5104)
  • "Walkin' by Myself" / "Outside Man", 1945 (Joe Davis 5105)
  • "Forget It Mama" / "You've Been Drunk", 1945 (Joe Davis 5106)
  • "Santa Claus Blues" / "Gin Mill Sal", 1945 (Joe Davis 5107)
  • "Once I Had a Girl" / "Black Woman Blues", 1945 (Solo 10-014)
  • "How Long, How Long Blues" / "I Think You Need a Shot", 1945 (Continental 6064)
  • "Let's Have a Ball" / "Hard Feeling", 1945 (Continental 6065)
  • "Going Down Slow" / "Mean Old Frisco", 1945 (Continental 6066)
  • "Bad Whiskey and Wild Women" / "Bus Station Blues", 1945 (Lenox 505)
  • "Mean Old Frisco" / "When You Ain't Got a Dime", Dupree and Brownie McGhee recording as Blind Boy Johnson & His Rhythms, 1945 (Lenox 511)
  • "Love Strike Blues" / "Wet Deck Mama",1946 (Joe Davis 5108)
  • "Big Legged Mama" / "I'm a Doctor for Women", 1946 (Celebrity 2012; Celebrity is a Joe Davis subsidiary label)
  • "Cecelia, Cecelia" / "Going Down to the Bottom", Dupree and Brownie McGhee recording as Willie Jordan & His Swinging Five, 1946 (Alert 207)
  • "Fifth Avenue Blues" / "Highway 31", 1946 (Alert 421)
  • "Come Back Baby" / "Chittlins & Rice", 1949 (Apollo 407)
  • "One Sweet Letter" / "Mean Mistreatin' Mama", 1949 (Apollo 413)
  • "Lonesome Bedroom Blues" / "Old Woman Blues", 1949 (Apollo 421)
  • "Featherweight Mama" / "Day Break", Dupree and Brownie McGhee recording as Brother Blues & the Back Room Boys, 1949 (Abbey 3015)
  • "Day Break" / "Pete's Boogie", Dupree and Brownie McGhee recording as Brother Blues & the Back Room Boys, 1949 (Abbey 3024)
  • "Deacon's Party" / "My Baby's Coming Back Home", Dupree with Big Chief Ellis & His Blues Stars, 1950 (Apollo 426)
  • "Just Plain Tired" / "I'm Gonna Find You Some Day"Dupree with Big Chief Ellis & His Blues Stars, 1950 (Apollo 428)
  • "Rub a Little Boogie" / "Doomed", Dupree and Brownie McGhee recording as Duke Bayou & His Mystic Six, 1949, released 1950 (Apollo 440)
  • "Goin' Back to Louisiana" / "Barrel House Mama", Dupree and Brownie McGhee recording as Meat Head Johnson & His Blues Hounds, 1950 (Apex 1110)
  • "Old, Old Woman" / "Mean Black Woman", Dupree and Brownie McGhee recording as Meat Head Johnson & His Blues Hounds, 1950 (Gotham 514)
  • "The Woman I Love" / "All Night Party", Dupree and Brownie McGhee recording under McGhee's name, 1951 (Derby 783)
  • "Heartache Blues" / "Real Good Feelin", Dupree and Brownie McGhee recording as Big Tom Collins, 1951 (King 4483)
  • "Heart Breaking Woman" / "Watchin' My Stuff", Dupree and Brownie McGhee recording as Big Tom Collins, 1951 (King 4568)
  • "Stumbling Block Blues" / "Number Nine Blues", 1953 (Red Robin 109)
  • "Highway Blues" / "Shake Baby Shake", 1953 (Red Robin 112)
  • "Drunk Again" / "Shim Sham Shimmy", 1953, released 1954 (Red Robin 130)
  • "The Blues Got Me Rockin'" / "Tongue Tied Blues", 1953 (King 4633)
  • "Ain't No Meat on de Bone" / "Please Tell Me Baby", 1953 (King 4651)
  • "Walkin' Upside Your Head" / "Hard Feeling", 1953 (King 4695)
  • "Rub a Little Boogie" / "Camille", 1953 (King 4706)
  • "Two Below Zero" / "Blues for Everybody", 1955 (King 4779)
  • "Harelip Blues" / "Let the Doorbell Ring", 1955 (King 4797)
  • "Walking the Blues " / "Daybreak Rock", vocal by Teddy "Mr. Bear" McRae, 1955 (King 4812)
  • "That's My Pa" / "Stumbling Block", 1955 (King 4827)
  • "She Cooks Me Cabbage" / "Silent Partner", 1955 (King 4859)
  • "Failing Health Blues" / "Me and My Mule", 1955 (King 4876)
  • "Overhead Blues" / "So Sorry, So Sorry", 1955, released 1956 (King 4906)
  • "Mail Order Woman" / "Big Leg Emma's", 1955, released 1956 (King 4938)
  • "Lonely Road Blues", vocal by Teddy "Mr. Bear" McRae / "When I Got Married", 1956 (Groove 0171)
  • "Dirty Woman" / "Just Like a Woman", 1957 (Vik 0260)
  • "Old Time Rock and Roll" / "Rocky Mountain", 195 (Vik 02797)
  • "Shake Baby Shake" / "Lollipop Baby", 1957 (Vik 0304)
  • "Frankie and Johnny" / "Strollin'", 1959 (Atlantic 2032)
  • "My Mother-in-Law" / "Evil Woman", 1961 (Atlantic 2095)
  • "Sharp Harp" / "Two Below Zero", 1955, released 1961 (Federal 12408)

12" LPs[edit]

  • Blues from the Gutter, 1958 (Atlantic SD-8019 [US]; London/Atlantic LTZ-K15171 [UK]; on CD: Atlantic/Rhino 075678243424)
  • Champion Jack's Natural & Soulful Blues, 1961 (Atlantic SD-8045 [US]; London/Atlantic SAH-K6151 [UK]; on CD: Collectables 6818)
  • The Women Blues of Champion Jack Dupree, 1961 (Folkways Records FS-3825;[10] on CD: Smithsonian Folkways/Rounder 093070382527)
  • Sings the Blues, 1961, compilation (King LP-735)
  • Champion Jack Dupree, 1962 (Archive of Folk Music/Everest Records FS-217)
  • Champion of the Blues, 1963 (Atlantic SD-8056; on CD: Collectables 6818)
  • Americans in Europe Vol. 2, 1963 (Impulse! Records A-37)
  • Cabbage Greens, 1963, compilation (Okeh OKM-12103)
  • From New Orleans to Chicago, 1966 (London PS-553 [US]; Decca LK-4747 [UK]); on CD: Beat Goes On 649)
  • Champion Jack Dupree and His Blues Band Featuring Mickey Baker 1967 (Decca SKL-4871 [UK]; on CD: Beat Goes On 649)
  • Tricks [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; on CD: Blue Horizon 90007)
  • Scooby Dooby Doo (Blues Masters, Vol. 10), 1969 (Blue Horizon/CBS BH-4610; on CD: Blue Horizon 90007)
  • The Incredible...Champion Jack Dupree, 1970 (Sonet SNTF-614)
  • I'm Happy to Be Free, with Mickey Baker and 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, with King Curtis, 1973 (Atlantic 1637; on CD: Atlantic 81389-2, Collectables 6331) [2]
  • Blues for Everybody, 1976, compilation (King KS-1084 [single LP]; 1980, King/Gusto GD-5037X [double LP]; on CD: See For Miles/King Masters [UK] KCD-6014)
  • Back Home in New Orleans, 1990 (Bullseye Blues/Rounder Records BB-9502, LP and CD)
  • Forever and Ever, 1991 (Bullseye Blues/Rounder BB-9512, LP and CD)
  • One Last Time, 1993 (Bullseye Blues/Rounder BB-9522, LP and CD)

CD releases and 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, recorded 1989 (1994, JSP 231; 1998 reissue with new artwork, JSP 807)
  • 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, 2-CD set)
  • Bad Luck Blues – Live With Freeway 75, recorded 1974 (2003, Blue Nose [Switzerland] BN-074)
  • Walkin' the Blues: The Very Best of Champion Jack Dupree (2003, Collectables 2874)
  • Dupree 'N' McPhee: The 1967 Blue Horizon Session, with T. S. "Tony" McPhee (2005, Ace CHM-1063)
  • The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions (2005, Sony 5185162; Blue Horizon 90007)
  • Early Cuts from a Singer, Pianist and Songwriter Who Took Blues to the World (2009, JSP 77120, 4-CD box set)
  • Two Classic Albums Plus 40s & 50s Singles (2010, Avid 1006, 2-CD compilation of Blues from the Gutter, Champion Jack's Natural & Soulful Blues and various singles)


  1. ^ a b Dahl, Bill. "Champion Jack Dupree". Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  2. ^ a b Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues: A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger Publishers. p. 314. ISBN 978-0313344237. 
  3. ^ "Our Times: The Louis Armstrong Childhood Arrest That No One Knew About". New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved 23 August 2016. 
  4. ^ Lichtenstein, Grace; Dankner, Laura (1993). Musical Gumbo: The Music of New Orleans. W. W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-03468-2, ISBN 978-0-393-03468-4. Google Books
  5. ^ Broven, John (1983). Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans. Pelican Publishing. ISBN 0-88289-433-1 ISBN 978-0-88289-433-1. Google Books
  6. ^ a b c Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. pp. 107–108. ISBN 1-85868-255-X. 
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ "Small Town Saturday Night". Small Town Saturday Night. Retrieved 2014-06-14. 
  9. ^ "Sound file". Retrieved 2014-06-14. 
  10. ^ "Smithsonian Folkways – The Women Blues of Champion Jack Dupree – Champion Jack Dupree". 2013-03-20. Retrieved 2014-06-14. 

External links[edit]