by Eric Stearley
Thursday Night Blues kicks off Jan. 30 with Dr. Duke Tumatoe and the Power Trio, the first of the series’ three shows. The Power Trio, made up of James Hill on keyboard, Joseph “G.I. Joe” Maddox on drums, and A.J. Jones on bass, will join Duke on stage at 7:30 p.m.
Growing up in Chicago in the 1950s, Duke grew up listening to blues. At 10, he started playing drums, and when he was 13, he heard Muddy Waters for the first time.
“He was rehearsing in a nightclub and I was out in the alley with a friend of mine,” said Duke “I was so moved, I wanted my whole life to be able to be as invested in the music as he was. He would be in the room playing the song, but he was not in the room at all. He was someplace else.”
This was perhaps the single most influential experience in Duke’s early life.
“I don’t have the same voice he had and I don’t approach the guitar the same way he did, but the essence of his energy affected me and was one of the prime motivating things in my career.”
Shortly after, he picked up guitar. He knew that his life would be music, and to this day, hasn’t held a “real job” outside of his music.
“It’s the kind of music I grew up listening to,” said Duke. “That’s what I grew up playing and that’s what I dedicated my life to without even thinking about it.”
This motivation led him to become one of the founding members of REO Speedwagon, playing with the band for two years.
“We had different musical perspectives,” said Duke. “They wanted to be rock stars. That was their total motivation. For me, it was about trying to be the best guitar player I could be.”
After a trip to California, Duke knew he needed to go in a different direction.
“The way they were approaching the goals, I was not comfortable with the situation,” said Duke. “As a young man, I grew up on the south side of Chicago and it had a great influence on me and as a young man, I was very impatient and aggressive, and I knew myself well enough to know that if I was in an environment that I was not comfortable with, I would do something bad, so I quit.”
That same year, Duke formed Duke Tumatoe & the All-Star Frogs, which he toured with for 13 years, playing up to 300 shows each year. In 1983, he made some big changes in his life, breaking up the All-Star Frogs and moving to Carmel.
“Thirty-five years ago, I met the woman I’m married to, and she lived here and had young children,” said Duke. “I was in love with her and I moved here.”
With the move came a new band, The Power Trio, with whom he has toured since. He’s slowed down the tour schedule significantly, projecting that in 2014, he’ll play between 70 and 90 shows.
“I don’t have the same gun to my head that I used to,” Duke said about his six children being grown and out of the house.
Shortly after moving to the Indianapolis area, Duke met Tom Griswold of “The Bob & Tom Show,” a relationship that eventually spawned Duke’s comedic song “Lord Help Our Colts,” which he played on the show and adapted many times over the next 25 years based on developments within each football season.
Duke said that people coming to Thursday’s show should expect a “good time, [darn it],” and that he’ll be playing Duke Tumatoe classics, as well as selections from his forthcoming album, a collection of classic blues songs originally performed by Chicago blues legends, adapted for Duke’s style and band. Duke says the bulk of the songs on his newest album are those that affected him as a kid. He says that artistically, it’s one of the biggest challenges he’s faced.
“We’re looking forward to this Eagle’s show,” said Duke. “It sounds like from what people have said to me it’s a fantastic theatre with great acoustics.”
The drums will start to rumble at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the first of this year’s Thursday Night Blues shows.