Champion Jack DupreeOn 10/07 or on 04/07 or on 23/07 in 1908, 1909 or 1910: Champion Jack Dupree was born. There is some confusion as to the exact date. His full birth name was William Thomas Dupree. His father was from the Belgian Congo and his mother was part African American and Cherokee. When he was two he orphaned and sent to Colored Waifs Home in New Orleans (Louis Armstrong was sent there as well around the same time). There Dupree taught himself to play the piano. He would be apprenticed by Tuts Washington and Willie Hall, whom he called his father. He was a spy boy for the Yellow Pocahontas tribe of the Mardi Gras Indians.
After leaving the home he embarked on a life of travelling. He lived in Chicago, where he worked with Georgia Tom and in Indianapolis where he met Scrapper Blackwell and Leroy Carr. He would take jobs as a cook, though when he went to Detroit, Joe Louis encouraged him to become a boxer. He would fight in 107 bouts, winning Golden Gloves and a few other championships. It was here he picked up the nickname Champion Jack.
At the age of 30, he returned to Chicago, joining such artists as Big Bill Broonzy and Tampa Red. Red would introduce him to producer Lester Melrose. Melrose would be credited as the composer on many of Dupree's songs. World War two disrupted his career. He was a cook in the US Navy and was held prisoner by the Japanese for two years.
After the war, he had a big hit with "Walkin' the Blues", which he recorded with Teddy McRae. He went on tour nationally and even toured Europe.
In 1960 he moved to Switzerland, then to Denmark, England and Sweden before finally settling in Germany. During the 1970s and 80s, he moved to Halifax in England. A piano he used was discovered in Calderdale College in Halifax. He continued to record with Kenn Lending Band, Louisiana Red and Axel Zwingenberger. He also took up working as a cook again and would occasionally go back to visit the US.
He died of cancer on January 21, 1992, in Hanover, Germany.