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Sat, 02.10.1917

Big Joe Duskin, Blues Musician born

Big Joe Duskin

*Big Joe Duskin was born on this date in 1921. He was a Black blues and boogie-woogie pianist. He is best known for his debut album, Cincinnati Stomp (1978), and the tracks "Well, Well Baby" and "I Met a Girl Named Martha."

He was born Joseph L. Duskin in Birmingham, Alabama. By the age of seven, he had started playing the piano. He played in church, accompanying his father, the Rev. Perry Duskin. His family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, and Duskin was raised near the Union Terminal train station, where his father worked. On the local radio station WLW, Duskin heard his hero Fats Waller play. He was also inspired to play in a boogie-woogie style by Pete Johnson's "627 Stomp".

In his younger days, Duskin performed in clubs in Cincinnati and across the river in Newport, Kentucky. While serving in the U.S. Army in World War II, he continued to play and, in entertaining American servicemen, met his idols Johnson, Albert Ammons, and Meade Lux Lewis. After his military service ended, Duskin's father caught him playing boogie in the church and made him promise to stop playing in that style while he was still alive. However, Rev. Duskin lived to age 105, and in the meantime, Joe Duskin found employment as a police officer and postal worker. Effectively in the middle of his career, he never played a keyboard for sixteen years.

By the early 1970s, Duskin had begun playing the piano at festivals in the U.S. and across Europe. By 1978, and with the reputation for his concert playing now growing, his first recording, Cincinnati Stomp, was released on Arhoolie Records. The album contained Duskin's cover version of "Down the Road a Piece" and featured Jimmy Johnson and guitarist Bob Margolin. He toured Austria and Germany, and in 1987 he made his first visit to the U.K. The same year his part in John Jeremy's film Boogie Woogie Special, recorded for The South Bank Show, raised Duskin's profile. In 1988, accompanied by guitarist/producer Dave Peabody, Duskin recorded his third album, Don't Mess with the Boogie Man, on Special Delivery Records.

He was also a guest and invited to perform on the BBC program Bravo accompanied by the Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts. Duskin performed several times in the following decade at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and the Chicago Blues Festival. His touring in Europe continued before he recorded his final album at the Quai du Blues in Neuilly, France. Several Duskin albums were issued on European labels in the 1980s and 1990s. It was 2004 before his third American release; Big Joe Jumps Again! (Yellow Dog Records) was issued; it was his first studio recording in sixteen years. It featured Philip Paul (drums), Ed Conley (bass), and Peter Frampton on guitar.

Duskin's 84th birthday party was held at The Fat Fish Blue, Newport, Kentucky, and helped record his final offering, a double CD album set for Cottage On The Hill Records. Awards and honors In 2000, Duskin received a Lifetime Achievement "Cammy" ("Cammy" was the nickname for The Cincinnati Enquirer Pop Music Award, which was presented annually to musicians identified with the tri-state area of Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana). Duskin was presented with a key to the city in 2004 by the mayor of Cincinnati. The following year he was a recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, which is the U.S. highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.

Suffering from the effects of diabetes, Duskin was on the eve of having his legs amputated when he died on May 6, 2007. The Ohio-based Big Joe Duskin Music Education Foundation keeps its musical ideals alive by producing in-school music presentations for public school children.

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