Finds the Funny Side of the Blues
By Rick Coates 8/31/09
If you think blues songs are all about being down and out, just spend some time with Bill Fiorio, a.k.a. Dr. Duke Tumatoe, and he will convince you otherwise. Duke Tumatoe has enjoyed a 40-year career performing the blues, in particular humorous and raunchy blues tunes throughout the Midwest. His audience has expanded over the years after making regular appearances on the Bob and Tom radio show.
He will make a return visit to Northern Michigan this Labor Day weekend with three performances (Friday-Sunday) at the Little River Casino in Manistee.
If you dig into the songbooks of blues legends, you will find that most of their songs are funny, said Tumatoe. I think that there is this big misconception out there as to what blues is all about, primarily by people who do not listen, but at the end of the day this music is about looking at lifes hardships with a sense of humor. This music is all about relieving the stresses of life.
With song titles like Its Christmas (Lets Have Sex) and numerous others such as the NFL Song and Lord Help Our Colts airing on the Bob & Tom Show, Tumatoe has built his career on humorous songs.
But while Tumatoe likes to joke around with his lyrics he is serious about the music.
There is a great deal of musical ability in my band, said Tumatoe. We are serious about our playing.
When asked about his guitar playing, Tumatoe is humble in his responses but he is respected on the blues circuit by fans and players alike and his slide guitar work is among the best out there.
Tumatoe got his start at the age of 10 when his parents finally agreed to let him have a drum set. When he entered high school he switched over to guitar.
I am self-taught and I really had to work at it, said Tumatoe. After awhile, I realized this was what I was born to do.
After high school he headed off to the University of Illinois where he joined the Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) fraternity and met some classmates who also would later enjoy fame.
I was in the FIJI house band and Bill Geist was a member, he is a bestselling author and CBS Sunday Morning News Correspondent, said Tumatoe. He named my band for me, Lothar and the Hand People.
A couple of years later Tumatoe would find himself in another band, REO Speedwagon. His tenure with the band was short-lived as he would leave after about a year to form the All-Star Frogs in 1970. The band had a solid 14-year run throughout the Midwest and enjoyed much success on the college club scene circuit.
In 1983 he formed Duke Tumatoe and The Power Trio. A few years later he signed a deal with Warner Brothers and released I Like My Job, which was produced by John Fogerty.
It was great having someone of Johns caliber willing to produce my album, said Tumatoe.
But he takes it all in stride just as he did as a kid growing up in Chicago watching and performing with all the blues greats.
I grew up in their neighborhood and you could say I took it all for granted because they were all right there, guys like Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Albert King, Buddy Guy, and Bo Diddly, said Tumatoe. I grew up watching the first generation of electric blues guitarists play and I was lucky enough to get to play with them as well. I was there in the moment, so now that I look back at it I realize how fortunate I was. At the time it was going on I just didnt grasp it all like I do now.
So after 40 plus years of performing, is Duke Tumatoe slowing down?
I am averaging 200 shows a year and logging 60,000 miles, said Tumatoe. Our shows are all about having a good time, creating a little mischief and making a lot of great music.
Duke Tumatoe and The Power Trio will perform for three straight nights at the Little River Casino in Manistee. For
more details on Duke Tumatoe check
out myspace.com/duketumatoe for a sampling of songs; and for concert information contact the Little River Casino Resort at littlerivercasinos.com
or by calling 1-888-568-2244.