Peter DuConge

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This performer seems to be the most famous member of a New Orleans family dynasty that also included father Oscar DuConge, whose bands were well-established in the city around the turn of the 19th century,…
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This performer seems to be the most famous member of a New Orleans family dynasty that also included father Oscar DuConge, whose bands were well-established in the city around the turn of the 19th century, as well as a set of musical brothers. Peter DuConge, who played alto saxophone and clarinet, could swap reed tall tales with Earl DuConge, a tenor saxophonist, while meanwhile Adolphus DuConge was available to run changes on the piano. Every New Orleans family had to have a trumpet player, too, which in this case was Albert DuConge.

The bandleader Edmond Faure was supposedly the first to pass Peter DuConge a nickel for his musical efforts, although the amount might have been greater considering that the venue was called the Elite Club. Following this the reedman was able to literally sail out of town, playing on a band aboard a riverboat. He did this sort of work for a while, then swapped it for dry land as in the New York City jazz scene. From 1927 a series of gigs ensued, including work with a samba orchestra, a neo-swinging Bill Brown & His Brownies, and a progressive group under the direction of Leon Abbey. The latter job meant further sailing, as in a European tour.

It turned out to be a life-changer for DuConge, also representing a great difference in lifestyle from the choice made by most players from New Orleans families. While staying put at the mouth of the Mississippi is the normal course of action, DuConge chose the Seine. He attempted to make a life for himself in Europe, marrying the singer Ada "Bricktop" Smith -- a relationship that apparently didn't even last as long as some of the ballads she performs. His status in Europe as a musician attained more longevity, however, and he worked through the '30s for big-time leaders such as Louis Armstrong, with whom he recorded, Benny Peyton, and Coleman Hawkins. DuConge headed back to the U.S.A. as soon as the first shot was fired in the Second World War. He spent time in New Orleans, New York City, and the Midwest but only played music casually.