Born July 1908, 1909, or 1910 in New Orleans, Louisiana as William Dupree, Champion Jack Dupree was a singer and pianist in blues and boogie-woogie music. His early life saw him orphaned and sent to New Orleans’ Colored Waifs Home at eight years old. Musical contemporary Louis Armstrong was also sent to this orphanage around the same time.
Early Music Career
Champion Jack Dupree taught himself to play the piano and also learned under Willie Hall and Tuts Washington, two veteran musicians. It would be Willie Hall—known as Drive ‘Em Down—whom he viewed as a father figure. His early career saw him play bars and with other acts.
He traveled and performed in the Great Lakes area in Chicago and Indianapolis. It was in Detroit that he pursued boxing upon encouragement from Joe Louis. Fighting in 107 amateur bouts and winning the Golden Gloves, Dupree would take up the moniker “Champion Jack Dupree” which became his stage name.
In the years prior to World War II Champion Jack would head back to Chicago which had a bustling blues scene at the time. He would record with the likes of Tampa Red and Big Bill Broonzy and work with producer Lester Melrose who took the publishing rights to his songs. With the outbreak of World War II, Dupree would serve as a cook in the Navy. He ended up a Japanese POW for two years as well.
The 1950s would prove to be a career bump for Champion Jack Dupree. He had one big hit during this decade with “Walkin’ the Blues” along with Teddy McRae. After a tour of Europe later that decade, Dupree would move to Switzerland in 1960. During this time, there was a major blues nostalgia revival in Europe, allowing for him to have quite the career. He would move on to Denmark and spend time in England and Sweden.
Dupree would eventually settle in Germany. Later in life he would return to the U.S. on occasion to perform at festivals but spent most of his time as a cook and performing live with a number of musicians. In January 1992, Champion Jack Dupree passed away as a result of cancer in Hanover, Germany.
-w/ King Curtis – Poor Boy Blues: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fd-37QTDxZA