J Howard Duff

Musician / Teacher / Nice Jacket Recording Artist

So You Wanna Be a Rock n' Roll Star?

Before I begin, please don’t think this is going to be a whiney pity piece about how the music business is unfair, or full of tin ears who wouldn’t know good music if it slapped them in the face because it is not. What it is meant to do is to give all of you that “have the dream” a little hope and encouragement.

I have been a professional musician in one way shape or form since 1964. That’s a long time ago! To this very day, I still harbor the hope of better & bigger gigs, bigger paydays, and yes–recognition of my talent. There have been some wrong turns and bad choices that I have made during those years that have led to mornings where I just wanted to hide under the covers so that the past due bill collectors’ phone calls were muffled by the blankets, and the fact that if I ate breakfast now, I would have nothing to eat for lunch or dinner. (“I thought he said this was not going to be a whiney piece”, you are saying to yourself… hang on, it’s not). When you find yourself in this position, and trust me, you will, there are three things to focus on:

First, you chose this life, and if you thought it was going to be easy, you chose the wrong one. Those wrong turns I spoke about…they were my bad choices, not someone else’s. Oh, I may have been pressured by an agent or bandmates to choose the way to go, but in the end, it was my choice. Learn from your choices, good and bad!

Second, not everybody thinks you are as good as you do. Remember the “tin ears” I made reference to earlier? Well, musicians can have them just as much as an audience or record company can. In fact, those of us who make the music may be more guilty of tin ear syndrome. Why?...  because most of us suffer from having HUGE egos to go along with our oh-so-cool attitudes. Learn to step back and be more judgemental of your own music than anyone else’s; your music is the only music you can control!

Third, learn to be grateful.  On those down days, I have two ways to go. Either wallow in my misery (attractive but not useful) or be grateful for the fact that even in my veritable obscurity, I have come further than 95% or more of the people who have set out to be a musician. That I have actually been able to support myself and my bride of almost forty years by playing music or by doing something musically related actually boggles my mind when I think about it! The fact that my business card says: “J. Howard Duff: Musician”, never fails to send a thrill up my well-worn spine. Be grateful of what you have accomplished & pass your gratitude onto others!

Hopefully, this helps. Now, is there a booking agent or a record company looking for an old white blues guy to make them a few million dollars? I’ll be waiting by the pay phone at the gas station…


Leon Russell-Inspiritor

One of the musicians that inspired me over the years was Leon Russell. He passed away yesterday at the age of 74, never recovering from a quadruple bypass earlier this year.

While many of us “oldsters” remember him for his solo career, Leon was the pianist on Bobby Boris Pickett's “Monster Mash”; played the keys and arranged “This Diamond Ring” (Gary Lewis & the Playboys), was a member of “The Shindogs” (the house band for the legendary 60’s show “Shindig”). He also played the piano on “Live With Me” by The Stones on the “Let It Bleed” LP, and was the bandleader for Joe Cocker’s “Mad Dog & Englishmen” tour (not an easy job leading 20 crazed & talented hippie musicians while Cocker was upfront).

He also wrote the songs “Delta Lady”(Joe Cocker). “Your Song” (Ray Charles), “Hummingbird” (BB King), and “Superstar” (the Carpenters!). He collaborated with more artists that I can list. My favorite Leon Russell moment comes at the end of the song “Cry Me A River” from the “Mad Dogs” movie. All of the band is in a gospel/rock n’ roll frenzy when the song is calmly retarded under Leon’s direction. He takes a moment to brush back his hair, and counts the band back in to jet to the climax of the song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjp_iG9vzEU

We will miss “The Master Of Space & Time”!