Champion Jack Dupree - Blues From The Gutter
Feb 17, 2020
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The blues pianist Champion Jack Dupree was an artist with a great notoriety, which he owes to his boogie-woogie successes but also because he also participated well in the "democratization of blues marketing" in the 50's, like B.B King (but on a smaller scale of course, as he didn't have the same popularity). At that time blues albums were rare, very often what we see are either real, almost unknown versions, or mostly releases that don't have the right date and were released much later in the 60/70/80/90/2000. Blues is a pure music that was already very old, but it's really from the very end of the 50's and 60's that it knows its comeback in grace with many reissues of old tracks, compilations and also new unreleased albums.

Originally from one of the holy land of Blues in New Orleans, Champion Jack Dupree was born in the early 1900s. He was orphaned when he was not even 10 years old, was sent to children's institutes and learned the piano at a very young age. After "traveling" from town to town and doing odd jobs, he became a boxer and apparently he was a damn good boxer, which earned him the nickname "champion". In his thirties, in his declining sporting years, Dupree decided to move to Chicago to pursue his second passion, music. Artists such as Tampa Red and Big Bill Broonzy introduced him to producer Lester Melrose who runs Okeh Records. He records in 1940 "Warehouse Man Blues/ Chain Gang Blues" spis this label which will be his only recording at Okeh, because in fact he has to leave for military service during the second world war. He would have been a prisoner of war for 2 years.

When he came back, he signed with Davis Records where he recorded a few songs during the end of the 40's. However he had never known a consequent success although he had released great songs like FDR Blues for example (besides present on the album), in the 50s he alternates between several small labels, but in 1955 he releases Walking The Blues with Theodore McRae which will allow him to put the light on him and in particular to catch the eye of Atlantic who will sign him 3 years later. Dupree had gained a little in popularity but it was especially the fame he had gained from his peers that was very important, his songs were covered and his music overall had become very interesting.

In 1958, he returned to the studio for Atlantic to record the 10 songs (written from 1945 to 1958) that make up one of the classics of the blues genre: Blues From The Gutter, accompanied by Larry Dale, Pete Brown, Wendell Marshall and Willie Jones, which is his first solo album. I still wonder about the fact that a major label releases a blues album, except for B.B king's first album, there was almost none, is it an innovative/visionary bet or is it simply a choice of taste of the producer who simply loved Dupree's music, knowing that the blues wasn't really selling well and even less so the LPs? Even if I don't have the exact answer, I'll only base myself on what I really know: it's a very good blues album, full of sublime boogie woogie, played and sung by a man who mainly talked about hard things, prison, alcohol and drugs, and finally who had a charismatic voice and an amazing piano playing.

Linked album I've reviewed:
1956 : B.B King – Singin’ The Blues
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