Acoustic Blues Guitar Video Lesson Preview - Dupree Blues (Willie Walker).
Dupree Blues was one of the two tracks recorded by the Carolina blues guitar player Blind Willie Walker.
It seems that Walker only ever recorded two tracks, presumably two sides of the same record, but those two pieces gave a powerful idea of his prowess at finger picking blues guitar. Dupree was a very familiar theme in traditional American songs at the time and was later transformed into many Frankie and Johnny variations.
It's basically a familiar story told in the form of song. Dupree is in love with Betty and would do anything for here. She wants a diamond ring, Dupree doesn't have any money and so steals one, killing a policeman during the robbery.
Of course, he ends up in jail and is executed - Betty wails and spends the rest of her life in misery - the things we do for love! Great material for songs though - this kind of thing must have happened in real life many times.
Willie walker was the grandaddy of ragtime blues guitar picking by all accounts
What a shame we don't have more tracks to listen to! There's a whole group of brilliant guitarists that came from Carolina - Pink Anderson, Blind Boy Fuller, Floyd Council and of course, Reverend Gary Davis. Davis learned a lot from Walker, copying such magnificent guitar pieces as Make Believe Stunt and Cincinatti Flow Drag.
Davis later said that he was simply the best, and the Rev didn't hand out his complements lightly. Other blues guitar players he rated highly were Blind Blake and Big Bill Broonzy, the Chicago swing king.
Both Dupree Blues and South Carolina Rag were performed with two guitars, but it's easy to hear which one is played by Walker.
The duo follows a common pattern in those times - one guitar lays down a solid alternating bass rhythm and the second, often played with a capo high up on the neck, plays the melody and fits in the fancy stuff, such as fast single string runs.
Walker's singles string runs are incredibly fast, even more so than those of Gary Davis, and it make me wonder about his picking style. I generally play single string runs using alternating finger and thumb strokes, but Walker's are just to fast.
There's two ways he could have done it - either playing with a standard type plectrum held between thumb and forefinger while picking with his second and third fingers (like Richard Thompson), or using a plastic thumb pick and using it like a plectrum for the fast runs (like Tommy Emmanuel).
Whichever way he did it, they are amazingly fast and a great challenge. Both of these techniques are not in my repertoire, but maybe I'll give them a try - it's great to try and do new things on the guitar, however advanced to think you may be!
For this song, I tried to combine two guitar parts into one, trying to keep the overall flavor of the piece, but make it approachable for finger picking blues guitar players. It's played in G in standard tuning and it's pretty slow, which is a great help!
The main pattern is not alternating bass, but a kind of slow boogie on the bass strings played with thumb and two finger pinches. The basses do alternate later on in the verses and the whole song is generally interspersed with interesting singles string runs which connect the D7 and A7 chord shapes. The end tag is interesting and is played with a C chord shape running down from the 3rd to the 1st fret. Keep it real slow and watch that timing!