DUFFY POWER (By Dik de Heer)

Born Raymond Leslie Howard, 9 September 1941, Fulham, London, England. Died 19 February 2014, London, England.

Duffy Power was one of several British vocalists, including Billy Fury, Marty Wilde and Dickie Pride, signed to the Larry Parnes stable. When Parnes, Britain's first rock impresario, visited a Saturday morning teenage show in a cinema in west London to hear a band early in 1959, he also saw the young Ray Howard win a jive competition. Parnes was so impressed when he heard him sing that he signed him up. He was 17 and had been working in a laundry. Wearing leopard skin jackets and gold lame waistcoats, it was said of him that he not only lived life in the fast lane, but with the throttle pressed to the floor. Parnes had many talents as a manager, but picking songs for his boys to record was not one of them. Almost all of Duffy's early Fontana releases were covers (Dream Lover, Starry-Eyed, Ain't She Sweet), though I rather liked his version of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On", which peaked at # 7 in my personal Top 15 of January 1961. I haven't heard it since and doubt if I would like it now, with my more critical 2003 ears. Anyway, Duffy made no headway as a recording artist although his stage performances were stunning. It was while with Parnes that he met Billy Fury and Dickie Pride and the three became firm friends and even shared flats together. Convinced he was never going to make it under Parnes' management, Duffy parted company with him in late 1961, but things did not go well. In his own words Duffy said: "My gigs as a rock'n'roll singer in 1961 were getting weaker. I was going out in blue and gold lame suits, but the girls' screams were dying out. I started doing a few Ray Charles numbers, but the money wasn't coming in - I thought I would end up back in the laundry." One night he tried to commit suicide by gassing himself, but was rescued by a chance call from a friend, who took him to a blues club to recover and there, for the first time, he discovered the music he really wanted to play. He teamed up with the newly formed Graham Bond Quartet featuring Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce (both later members of Cream) and John McLaughlin. Their version of the Beatles 'I Saw Her Standing There' (1963), with Duffy singing lead, remains a milestone of British blues. Power's later singles included "Tired, Broke and Busted", which featured support from the Paramounts, but he later supplemented his solo career by joining Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated. The singer appeared on Red Hot From Alex (1964), Sky High (1966) and Blues Incorporated (Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting) (1967). By 1968 Duffy was out of work and broke again. Only this time his troubles were aggravated by drug taking and he succumbed to mental illness. For a time he became a recluse, writing songs alone in his flat, but in the early 70s he had recovered enough to record some of those songs which later became classics of their type. At the same time he also worked as a session musician and played on the sound track of the classic car chase film The Italian Job. In the late 80s Duffy began to emerge again, now a veteran musician who had something to teach the world and now the world was beginning to listen. When his records began to be re-issued on CD, it is no exaggeration to say they were received with awe by a new generation, who had no idea that an Englishman could play and sing the blues, along with some R&B and rock, as well as this - and had been doing so for more than 30 years. CD compilation: Blues Power (See For Miles, 1992).

These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
Yahoo Group "Shakin' All Over". For comments or information
please contact Dik de Heer at

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