One Track Mind: King Curtis and Champion Jack Dupree, "I'm Having Fun" (1971)

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NICK DERISO: “I’m Having Fun” arrives as advertised.

That is to say, it’s a bubbly, rollicking party record, featuring King Curtis — the Fort Worth native was one of the last of the great R&B saxists — shaking a bandstand to its foundations while keyboardist Champion Jack Dupree lays in these smooth, almost laconic grooves.

Set for reissue in December as part of a sprawling five-disc tribute to Atlantic Records producer Nesuhi Ertegun on Rhino Handmade, this live rendition of “I’m Having Fun” was originally included on the label’s “Blues at Montreux.” Curtis plays both alto and tenor, and is joined by Cornell Dupree (apparently no relation) on guitar, Jerry Jemmott on electric bass and Oliver Jackson at the drums.

A winking joy, “I’m Having Fun” features the New Orleans-born Dupree at the microphone in this rowdy style that befits his past as a boxer, tangling with Curtis in a series of, yes, fun calls and responses.

In fact, for all its merry-making, you’d think this was recorded at some dim Delta juke, rather than in front of a crowd in Switzerland. Listen closely, though, and you notice the careful subtleties that Curtis — who defined early rock music’s bawdy sax sound — was also capable of: “I’m Having Fun” displays a remarkably gritty verve and just the right touch of down-home directness.

Shockingly, it would be “King” Curtis Ousley’s last show.

Ousley — whose distinctive sax lines were featured on hit recordings like the Coasters’ “Yakety Yak,” a number of Aretha Franklin cuts including her version “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” the John Lennon tune “It’s So Hard” and his own “Memphis Soul Stew” — was murdered just weeks later by a stranger on the street in front of his New York apartment.

He would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

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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