Recommendations from Rainey and guitar-
ist Eric Gale—who would later become
Dupree’s bandmate in the jazz-funk band
Stuff—brought Dupree a steady stream of
session work in New York. More fortuitously,
Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler, who
had first met Dupree at a live recording date
at Harlem’s Apollo Theater in 1965, was soon
using the guitarist on sessions in New York,
Miami, and Muscle Shoals, Alabama. In the
liner notes to Dupree’s 1994 solo album, Bop
’n’ Blues’, Wexler described what made him so
valuable in the studio: “It was our practice to
use three or even more guitarists on a record
session. Time and again what we would get
into was a hellacious mess as the three gui-
tarists got in each other’s way,” said Wexler.
“So when Dupree, the pride of Fort Worth,
came to our rescue, it was bye-bye to multiple
guitarists because—miraculously, it seemed
to me—one man playing rhythm and lead at
the same time took the place of three.”
Dupree’s big breakthrough came in
1969, with a session he did for another
Atlantic producer, Arif Mardin, in 1969.
He backed Brook Benton on the Tony Joe
White tune “Rainy Night in Georgia,” and
the flowing, parallel-fourth double-stops
and sliding-sixth fills he’d played on the hit
had his phone ringing off the hook.
Words—and even audio—can only elucidate a player’s style so
much. To truly appreciate their mastery of the instrument, you
have to see how they pull it off live. Cornell Dupree was no different. The following videos will give you an idea of the easy, funky
grace he had onstage.
Check out how Dupree’s plectrum and three picking-hand fingers seem to
You Tube search term: “ridin’ thumb” king Curtis & the kingpins (live)
this clip features one of the funkiest soul guitar licks ever, even if it is a little
out of tune. Check out the big bolts that replaced the pickguard screws on
Dupree’s pickguard-less telecaster.
You Tube search term: “memphis Soul Stew” (live) king Curtis & the kingpins
a rare video of Dupree using a les Paul to tear up a blues number in the late
’80s. the fact that you can hear him singing along with his solo is a testament
to his vocal-style phrasing. Check out the middle-finger tremolo picking at the
end of his solo too!
You Tube search term: Cornell Dupree with Jon hammond & Bernard
Purdie 1989 mikell’s
“honky tonk” is one of the first tunes Dupree learned. here he nails Billy
Butler’s original solo on one of his early yamahas.
You Tube search term: Steve Gadd - Cornell Dupree
here Dupree turns in a beautiful version of “way Back home” on his yamaha
Pacifica. note how there’s little flash—but every note is in the pocket and
dripping with soul.
You Tube search term: (Different) Stuff - way Back home (1998)