Something Else! Featured Artist: Louisiana Music Hall of Fame pianist Doug Duffey

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NICK DERISO: The list of Louisiana Music Hall of Fame inductees is predictably recognizable. You’ve got your Dr. Johns and Clarence “Frogman” Henrys, your John Freds and your Blackie Forestiers, your Frankie Fords and your Doug Duffeys.

Hold up, Doug Duffey? The northern Louisiana-based globe-trotter may be one of the state’s most under appreciated ivory-pounders. Perhaps, it’s because Duffey — in the tradition of Howlin’ Wolf, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Muddy Waters and dozens of other blues-based performers — found his greatest successes overseas.

“The people are just wonderful — and, as a musician, you’re really respected over there,” Duffey said of one trip to the old U.S.S.R. “They really study jazz and blues over there. To them, it’s like an art form — and it is. It’s an American art form that nobody else has.”

Doug still takes the occasional Louisiana working sabbatical, primarily returning to New Orleans, which he calls his “spiritual hometown.” But it was in far-off lands — Belgium and Holland, Germany and Switzerland — where Duffey solidified his pianistic promise.

There, it seems everybody knows he’s the guy who collaborated with George Clinton in his “One Nation Under A Groove” heyday. A dude who knows Rolling Stones pianist Nicky Hopkins’ home phone number.

Doug’s right. Europeans often, and sadly, are more into that hip-shaking beauty than we are.

Duffey would play Professor Longhair for the Rooskies — and they’d turn red (or, redder, I guess) screaming praise.

“They can really relate to the blues,” Duffey says, “because they can feel it. They’ve lived through a lot of pain.”

That said, Duffey’s never gotten tripped up by his roots. He dabbles in everything, from psychedelic to disco.

When he was asked to play a wrap party for New Orleans Jazz Festival honchos a few years ago, Doug didn’t do R&B; it was like a 12-inch dance mixdown. He once performed locally with three vocalists, singing acappella to his own instrumental recordings.

Maybe that would be strange from anybody else. But not Duffey. “My music tends to have a lot of nostalgie de la boue, with fantasy and fact camouflaging each other,” he says.

Duffey “got started playing at the rec centers in Monroe,” he says, with a laugh. This wasn’t fun and games, though. It was for life.

An old interview, one from when he first went out to record in L.A., sums up Doug’s plans for that album — and the career that would follow.

“I want it to be tied together, kinda like an abstract painting, each song an entity to itself but relating to the whole,” Duffey said. “My first album will be … well, can you imagine a cross between Star Trek and New Orleans?”

Really, that is what it’s been all along. Doug would put out a record called “Living the Blues,” then one called “Danger, Sex and Sound FX.”

There’s a unifying element, and something he always comes back to: “It’s cerebral soul music,” Duffey allows. “As an artist, it’s my duty to report what I see and experience. I’ve had it all and I’ve had nothing.”

He’s certainly had plenty of bands. Favorites include the Distractors, Merging Traffic, Street Level, Razin’ Cane, the Next, the Stage 618 Band and Chill Factor.

“My first band was called the Secret … and that’s what I’ve done all my life — no day jobs.”

Duffey wasn’t in the Secret for long. Hopefully, that Hall of Fame induction will guarantee that he’ll never be one again.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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