Big Joe Duskin

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Blues piano legend Big Joe Duskin passed away at home Sunday morning at age 86.

A boogie-woogie piano player, Duskin may have been part of the generation that produced legends like BB King and Muddy Waters, but his background was far from typical: he fought as a soldier in World War II and became a Cincinnati Police Officer before becoming a professional musician at age 43.

His relatively late start in professional music was due to a promise made to his father, the Reverend Perry Duskin, who believed that blues was “the devil’s music”. Joe promised to stop playing blues and boogie until after the death of the elder Duskin, who lived to age 105.

But in the early 1970s, at the urging of a young Ohio blues scholar, Steve Tracy, Big Joe began playing again and was soon a hot ticket at festivals around the US and Europe. He released his debut LP, Arhoolie’s Cincinnati Stomp, in 1979.

Joe is beloved in his hometown as a mentor who never refused any musician’s request to sit in. In 2000, he received a Lifetime Achievement Cammy (Cincinnati Area Pop Music Award), and in July 2004 the Mayor of Cincinnati presented him with a Key to the City, proclaiming “The City of Cincinnati acknowledges and honors Big Joe Duskin for giving his hometown – and the world – a lifetime’s worth of great music.”

The release of Duskin’s last studio recording, Big Joe Jumps Again! by Yellow Dog Records in 2004 brought further recognition. The album was nominated by the Blues Foundation for “Comeback Blues Album of the Year” in the annual Blues Music Awards, and Duskin was featured in June 2005 with the cover story in Living Blues Magazine. Later that year Duskin became the first African-American honored with the Ohio Heritage Fellowship Award from the Ohio Arts Council.

Big Joe’s remarkable legacy and sharing of his talent in his aging years, in spite of pain and poor health due to complications from diabetes, continues to be an inspiration to us all.

  • We’re thrilled to announce the signing of Mary Flower! A double threat with fingerstyle and lap slide guitar, we highly recommend her last album Ragtime Gal. For her upcoming release on Yellow Dog Records, she traveled to New Orleans to record with a full lineup of some of the city’s best musicians, including Henry Butler, Jon Cleary, and Dr. Michael White. Look for the new album, Bywater Dance, this fall – join our mailing list to keep up-to-date on dates and details.
      • For those of you paying close attention… Mark Lemhouse‘s new album is just about ready as well. If you want to be one of the very first people to have a copy, you can order an advance copy from our Order Page now.
          • The entire Yellow Dog Records catalog is available on iTunes! Someday, we’ll have links from our Order Page so you can purchase individual tracks from iTunes.
              • UPDATE (Aug 2010): you can now purchase individual tracks as well as entire digital albums directly from us — look for “Download” links from the albums on our music page.

The Blues Foundation is sending out a press release announcing this year’s Handy Award nominations… and 2 Yellow Dog Records albums are nominated! The Bo-Keys are nominated in the “Best New Artist Debut” category, while Big Joe Duskin is nominated for “Comeback Blues Album of the Year”.

We’ll post more details as they become available – the full list from the Blues Foundation is posted here. Congratulations to Big Joe and The Bo-Keys!

In an awards ceremony November 22, piano blues legend Big Joe Duskin was inducted into the City Entertainment Awards Hall of Fame. The awards, presented by CityBeat magazine, recognize, celebrate and reward the artists who are on the cutting edge of Cincinnati’s performing arts community.

The City of Cincinnati marked Big Joe‘s appearance at this summer’s Cincy Blues Festival with a proclamation of Saturday, July 31st as “Big Joe Duskin Day”. He was presented with a Key to the City before his music performance at the festival. Read Press Release

For the rest of the world not living in Cincinnati, we released Duskin’s all-new studio album nationwide on September 7th. The album, “Big Joe Jumps Again!”, sees Joe joined by the King rhythm section as well as a few special guests including Cincinnatian Peter Frampton. Big Joe knocks out 15 stellar blues tracks, as well as a special narrative track where he describes the story of his struggle with his preacher father, who didn’t exactly approve of Joe playing “the Devil’s music.”