Oscar DuConge

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Oscar DuConge was the grand old man of one of the many musical dynasties of New Orleans music. Wendell DuConge, who played on vintage Fats Domino records in the '50s, would have called him grandpapa.…
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Oscar DuConge was the grand old man of one of the many musical dynasties of New Orleans music. Wendell DuConge, who played on vintage Fats Domino records in the '50s, would have called him grandpapa. Oscar DuConge produced a brace of his own musically inclined sons, notably multi-instrumentalist Peter DuConge, pianist Adolphus DuConge, trumpeter Albert DuConge, and tenor saxophonist Earl DuConge, father of the aforementioned Wendell DuConge. Beyond simply siring musicians and making sure the New Orleans phone book would be stuffed full of DuConges, the patriarch made a great artistic contribution of his own to the city's musical life through his own band.

In its full glory, Oscar DuConge's group is said to have been a melting pot with ingredients every bit as varied and tangy as that which simmered into the great South African jazz styles. DuConge's personal musical approach involved the influence of French music, a bag (or rather a baguette) that has continued to pop up in jazz -- French marching band themes haunting the free jazz of Albert Ayler and chanteuse Edith Piaf setting the pace for many a female vocalist. The importance of the DuConge band circa 1898, however, also had to do with a backlash against a backlash. The passing of fascistic racial segregation laws earlier in the decade had forced Creoles onto the same low road as the so-called blacks, at first a path these musicians who assumed a state of higher sophistication and breeding were not enthusiastic about trodding.

Father DuConge's band represented the music that evolved once the blacks and Creoles got together. Other aspects of this movement included the music of John Robichaux and Peter Bocage, with both French and Haitian influences, other purely French stylists such as Alcibiades Jeanjacque and the team of Punkie & Bouboul Valentin, and the Spanish spice of Lorenzo Tio. Among the top New Orleans players who came up in the DuConge band is clarinetist Alphonse Picou. Oscar DuConge was also involved in military regiment bands.