DUFFY POWER: a brief overview

Duffy Power never quite achieved the success he deserved, either as a straight pop star or in his later guise as a respected exponent of the British Blues and R&B scene in the late 60's. Power started off his career as an early British Rock 'n' Roller in the closing years of the 1950's under the management of Larry Parnes. In 1959 he was signed to Fontana for whom he recorded three singles that year which also appeared on the brittle but fast-disappearing 78rpm format. First off was a cover of Bobby Darin's "Dream Lover" which was followed by "Kissin' Time" and "Starry Eyed" which lost out to Michael Holliday for chart honours. The following year saw a solitary release, a cover of Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" and two more releases the following year completed the Fontana contract.

It would be nearly two years before Duffy saw another release by which time his musical tastes had started to evolve. The early 1960's saw a period of relative calm in the Pop world come to a close when a new type of music exploded it's way into the charts in late '62 and early '63 in the shape of Merseybeat. Liverpool groups, whose repertoires often consisted of gutsy R&B numbers previously little-known to UK listeners were not alone in wanting music with heart and soul and "Beat Groups" sprang up in many cities across the country as a result. In this climate of change in early 1963 Duffy, by now having left Larry Parnes, secured a new deal with Parlophone for whom his initial release was a version of "It Ain't Necessarily So" which wasn't a hit.

Duffy Power (centre) with the Fentones in 1964 (courtesey of Bill Bonney. Click for larger view)

His next recording was perhaps of his most notable as it was supplied by fellow EMI artists Lennon and McCartney in the shape of their rocker, "I Saw Her Standing There", one of their earliest cover versions. In early March 1963 the Graham Bond group recruited guitarist John McLaughlin and renamed the Graham bond Quartet, they signed a five-year contract with EMI. Their first assignment was backing Duffy Power, on his second stab at capturing "I Saw Her Standing There" as the earlier recording was apparently not quite right. This was a pulsating version which featured Graham Bond's Hammond organ in an early outing for the instrument on UK recordings. Power also tracked a recording of a Bond original, "Farewell Baby". Next up was taking to the road in April on a package tour that featured Marty Wilde and Joe Brown on the same bill.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the Lennon/McCartney opus was released as the topside of Duffy's new single in May. It was apparently meant to be the b-side, but the powers that be at Parlophone flipped the single prior to release. During the early Summer of '63 "Duffy Power and the Graham Bond Quartet" promoted the single on two BBC radio sessions, "Saturday Club" in June and in "Pop Goes The Beatles" the following month but it didn't register on the charts. Between them they also found time to record a brace of Ray Charles songs at EMI, but this time the results went quietly unreleased.

Duffy Powers latest CD compilation - and a good one too, featuring a few tracks with the Fentones

Duffy Power's recent CD compilation, featuring a few tracks cut with the Fentones (Click for larger view)

1964 saw a development Duffy's new musical path with the release of "Parchman Farm" (also done by John Mayall and his Bluesbreakers) coupled with "Tired, Busted And Broke". On this waxing Southend group and fellow Parlophone signing the Paramounts ("Poison Ivy", "I'm The One Who Loves You") lent their weight to the backing but the record went the same way of the others by missing out on a chart position. During 1964 the Fentones (yet another Parlophone act) had been looking for a singer to front them as their original vocalist Shane Fenton (later known as Alvin Stardust) had moved into management. Power needed a backing group for recordings plus live dates and so the two parties struck up a working relationship.

Fruits of Duffy Power and the Fentones liason in the recording studio were versions of "Money Honey" and "Lawdy Miss Clawdy". The Fentones' drummer Don Burrel vacated his drum stool around this time and for this session his place was taken by Ginger Baker. Baker, previously a member of the Graham Bond Quartet, had appeared on Power's debut waxing for Parlophone of "I Saw Her Standing here" in 1963. The tracks were destined to make up Power's next single but never materialised, languishing in the vaults. They finally appeared in 2002 on a new Power compilation CD "Leapers And Sleepers" from RPM Records.

From around this time on Duffy supplemented his solo career by joining Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated and featured on the group's album "Red Hot From Alex" from the same year. He also appeared on two further albums, "Sky High" (1966) and "Blues Incorporated" (1967). Jack Bruce, who had previously been with Graham Bonds' group plus bassman Danny Thompson and drummer Terry Cox appeared behind duffy on some recordings made during that period. (The results from these informal sessions were later compiled into what would be Duffy's debut album "Innovations" in 1971.) Also featured was another ex-Graham Bond man, guitarist John McLaughlin who followed Duffy into his next venture, the short-lived Duffy's Nucleus who released just the one single, "Hound Dog" / "Mary Open The Door" for Decca. After the demise of the 'Nucleus's in late 1967 Duffy resumed his solo career but despite recording further singles over the next few years and the release of his debut album "Innovatioans" in 1971 no chart recognition was forthcoming.

CD collection of some of Duffy's rarely-heard BBC Radio sessionsTwo Duffy Power CD's are currently available, one of which (the previously mentioned "Leapers And Sleepers") collects the best of his recorded works, including some unreleased items. The other, "Sky Blues" (left) is a collection of his recordings for various BBC radio shows between 1968 and 1973, some of which were thought to have been wiped, others being rescued from cleaned-up home recordings. They cover the range from "That's All Right Mama" to "Gin House Blues" and includes a version of his 1963 single "I Saw Her Standing There", probably his best known track. None of the 19 recordings have been heard since their first broadcast and include a bonus session from 1994.

Although Power retreated quietly from the music three years later he is still highly regarded today as a pioneering folk blues performer, not to mention his singing, songwriting and harmonica playing. His long recording sheet belied the fact that he experienced no chart movement and his more adventurous sides are sought out today by those in the know. In particular his mid-60's performances often shunned the pitfalls of oft-used cliches typical of the genre. As a result, his recordings were often sincere and fresh, while at the same time reflecting the evolving nature of the British Rock scene in the process. 

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