Champion Jack Dupree: Junker's Blues
Champion Jack Dupree (vocal, piano)
New Orleans Barrelhouse Boogie (Columbia/Legacy CK 52834)
Composed by Champion Jack Dupree and Willie Hall.
Recorded: Chicago, January 28, 1941
Rating: 98/100 (learn more)
A New Orleans favorite since never-recorded pianist "Drive 'Em Down" (Willie Hall) played it in the streets in the Twenties, "Junker's Blues" was finally put on disc in 1941 by Hall's protege, Champion Jack Dupree. Jack's rough barrelhouse style fit the down-and-dirty drug-user lyrics to a T, and NOLA musicians such as Fats Domino ("The Fat Man"), Lloyd Price ("Lawdy Miss Clawdy"), and Professor Longhair ("Tipitina") have been casually borrowing lines from it ever since Dupree's original 78 RPM record was released.
Dupree's rendition is still the best one, though. "They call me a junco, 'cause I'm loaded all the time"-that's his cheerful opening line-and the Champ keeps up the bouncy, pounding, percolating blues piano while he name-checks cocaine, needles, reefer, wine, and, finally, jail time. Your mother's melody and words this isn't, but the situation eventually involves Jack's parents (and even his grandma) trying to wean him off the stuff.
There's no happy ending here-just some flinty barrelhouse chords and a blues song that became a hit and a template. The biggest irony, however, is that Dupree (to his credit) supposedly never used anything stronger than liquor-and not even much of that...
Reviewer: Ed Leimbacher