Thanks to Mac Myers Jazzwax for posting this.
Memory Flash Mr. Dupree Bolton
I found something tonight that brought back a flood of memories from my past. When I was 21 I went down to California in my parents motor home. In San Francisco I met and photographed a man playing trumpet on the streets of Chinatown, his name was Dupree Bolton. Over time we became friends of a sort, I remember how skinny and wasted away he was, when we met he was around 56 but looked to be 70. He used to played "Misty" for the dimes and quarters he got from tourists. I would hear it over and over again. I asked him why, he told me he played it because the tourists liked it and he could make more money.
Dupree was a talented jazz trumpet player but also a heroin addict, his addiction dominated his personality, feeding that addiction was the most important part of his day. He still played music for himself thou, I remember one time sleeping or trying to sleep as he and a piano player did an impromptu session where I was staying. They played for over 1 hour, gosh I wish I had taped it. After words he asked me how I liked it, I had been the only audience. Even thou the drug use ruled his life he was always a decent and kind person to me, never asking me for money and always treating me with respect. He liked the fact I came from Canada and was not American. I guess being a Canadian white guy made me less racist in his mind.
Dupree introduced me to another man Sonny Land (ex prize fighter) who became my very close friend. Sonny showed me his life in West Oakland, a ghetto area. It was a all quite a shock for a naive, young, white boy from Edmonton Canada. I was completely out of my element but felt safe with the men I met there, my friends, ironically most of them had spent time in San Quentin prison, including Sonny and Dupree.
I spent lots of time with Dupree and Sonny that first trip to California. During my second trip 5 years later, Dupree was missing. I tried to contact him but he was in a rehab-care center of some kind and they would not let me speak to him, they would not even admit he was in the facility (I guess fearing I was a drug buddy or something of the sort). Dupree Bolton died in 1993 at age 64 about 3 years after I tried to telephone him that last time. I was told (not sure if it was true) later by Sonny that Dupree had died of AIDS. He might have got HIV from a shared needle while shooting up.
Doing some searches today I accidentally found one line about my old companions life on Wikipedia. I also found a album, photos and even some video that was recorded when he was younger and much healthier. I remember photographing the album cover shown below. I walked with Sonny to his friends place, borrowed the album, lodged it in a wire fence and photographed it (saw those negs again a few months back). Remember doing that like it was yesterday, memories are strange things, 30+ years have past but it seems so close in my mind. I found that same album today on eBay (a CD version is also available). I bought an EX condition LP copy from Japan for $40 CAD (including shipping). Lots of money for a vinyl record, the most I have ever paid. I bought it for old time sake, I bought it to remember Dupree by. I can now work in the darkroom printing the "Dump and Dad" photos while listening to my old friend, remembering my time with him, Sonny and my other Oakland adventures, back when I was young.
I never did get a chance to say goodbye to Dupree before he died, maybe this blog is my way of paying tribute to the man I knew. A person with great talent who became yet another unfortunate casualty of heroin. Jazz is filled with many such stories of terrible waste and loss.
"Goodbye Dupree, I'm happy I had the chance to meet and know you. From Gerry in Canada."
I was thinking about what material I have of him. Possibly the following (if I can find it):
– 35mm b/w negs of him playing on the streets of San Francisco Chinatown
– 35mm image or images of him after he did drugs (some light damage to those negs).
– Possibly some cassette tape of him speaking not playing (not sure if I have this).
– A beta video tape of him stooped over and wasted. I tried to get him to play for me so I could record it on tape but he would not do it after he shot up on heroin, even thou he told me he would. I became pissed and angry at him when he would not play. The whole video he just sleeps slumped over. That was my last chance to record his music, and it went unfulfilled, still pissed at that!
– Possibly some written diary notes about him from that time we were together.
– And of course a bunch of vivid mostly fond memories. Going with him to a drug center to get methadone, talking to him about his music in Chinatown, going to buy clothes with him at a used store, him playing for me that one day, me making a naive stupid unintentional racial remark to him about him not needing sunscreen and his reaction (he sarcastically replied to me "Yeah I don't need sunscreen!"), his reaction (he looked at me with kindness and surprise) to my talking to him about my hopes to take him to the movie "Round Midnight" which was showing in the theatres when I was there (movie is about a white young man, respecting and trying to help an old Jazz sax playing African American recover his life). I think he realized at that moment I cared for him and wanted to help him, the look he gave me I will always remember fondly. So so many memories from 30+ years ago.
Here are links and photos to that wonderful album and Mr. Bolton
|Katanca! , Curtis Amy and Dupree Bolton
Music from the album, Dupree is the one playing trumpet.
"You Don't Know What Love Is"
More on Dupree Bolton and Curtis Amy. Including video of Dupree playing.
|Dupree earlier in life before I knew him
|Dupree in 1989 about 4 years after I met him, I remember this jacket, photographed him in it.