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Junker's Blues

Champion Jack Dupree


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A Farewell to King Curtis


Champion Jack Dupree performs live at the Montreux Jazz Festival on June 17th 1971 with King Curtis (tenor sax), Cornell Dupree (guitar), Jerry Jemmott (bass), and Oliver Jackson (drums). Filmed two months before King Curtis' tragic death.

Around midnight on August 13, 1971 Curtis Ousley (King Curtis) was lugging an air-conditioning unit toward his brownstone apartment on West 86th Street in New York City when he noticed two men on the steps of his home. When he asked them to leave, an argument started which quickly turned into a fist fight with one of the men, Juan Montanez. Montanez pulled a knife and stabbed Curtis in the chest. Curtis managed to wrestle the knife away and stab his assailant four times before collapsing. Montanez staggered away from the scene and Curtis was taken to Roosevelt Hospital, where he died from his wounds an hour later.

Montanez was arrested at the same hospital when police investigating the murder discovered that another man had been admitted with stab wounds around the same time as Curtis, they quickly realized the two events were connected. Montanez was charged with Curtis' murder and subsequently sentenced to a term of imprisonment.

On the day of Curtis' funeral Atlantic Records closed their offices. Jesse Jackson administered the service and as the mourners filed in, Curtis's band "The Kingpins" played "Soul Serenade". Among those attending were Ousley's immediate family including sister Josephine Ousley Allen, other family members, Aretha Franklin, Cissy Houston, Brook Benton and Duane Allman. Franklin sang the closing spiritual "Never Grow Old" and Stevie Wonder performed "Abraham, Martin and John and now King Curtis".

Curtis was subsequently buried in a red granite-fronted wall crypt in the 'West Gallery of Forsythia Court' mausoleum at Pinelawn Memorial Park in Farmingdale, New York, the same cemetery that holds Jazz greats Count Basie and John Coltrane.

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