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Boogie woogie Great Big Joe Duskin Passes at 86


Boogie Woogie legend Big Joe Duskin died Sunday May 7 at his home in Cincinatti from complications arrising from a long battle with diabetes. You can read the obituary in the Cincinatti Inquirer here.

 Big Joe, the “gentle giant,” was a perennial favorite of ours, performing at the first three Motor City Boogie Woogie Festivals from 1999-2001. He was honored as the first inductee of the Boogie Woogie Hall of Fame in 1999 in hometown Cincinnati, Ohio.  A professional musician since the age of 16, Big Joe’s grace and style belie his size and his other profession -- working 30 years as a Cincinnati police officer.  Big Joe has always mixed his musical talents with his love of gospel.  In fact, Big Joe’s love of Boogie Woogie got him in trouble with his Baptist preacher father. While in his 80s, Big Joe’s father made Joe promise that he wouldn’t play “the Devil’s music” until after his death. What no one could predict was that Big Joe’s father would live to 104 years of age.

Joe first heard piano played in his local church.  “I used to have to walk through a swamp filled with alligators to get to church,” Joe recalls.  “And the only way I escaped a beating for being out late at night was because my uncle would find me behind the piano and take me home in his wagon.  He used to get me to slip under the porch when we got home, before my old man could come out. Then, when my father started hollerin’ for me, I would get out from under that porch and tell him I’d fallen asleep under there.”

When his family moved to Cincinnati, Joe was able to teach himself to play the piano.  “I used to play the same song over and over and over, the only song I knew, Coon Shine Baby.  Folks would close their doors when I came onto the porch.  They’d say, ‘Oh no, here’s the Duskin boy again.  Don’t let him near the piano.  He’s gonna play that damned song again.’  ‘Cause at the time, we didn’t have a piano at home.” 

Artists  Blues  Boogie Woogie  


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