— By Chip Ratliff —
When you listen to his voice, you can’t help but hear the unique tone of a man that has paid his dues. An unmistakable voice that is all his own. His words speak of “sinners & saints”, love, pain, and survival drawing from a soulfulness coming from years of growing up in the Mississippi Delta, which includes picking cotton at the age of 3. He plays his Gibson Flying V guitar that he calls his “chainsaw” with a touch and sensitivity that is more than just an exercise in how many notes can be played. Still, with a deliberate intensity that wastes no notes, Chainsaw Dupont delivers the Blues the only way he know how. . . his way.
My mother used to play boogie-woogie piano, that she learned from Fats Domino
Born David Julius Dupont in Macomb, Mississippi, 100 miles north of New Orleans, Chainsaw Dupont was raised inside the Blues. “I didn’t choose the Blues. The Blues chose me!”, says Chainsaw, with an obvious sense of pride. This point becomes more than obvious when you hear his story. He started picking cotton at the age of 3, his mother died in a car accident when he was a teen, and he ran away from home in search of his father. Just the first trip in a life that can be definitely called a journey.
When David’s mother died, his brother brought him to the gritty west side of Chicago when he was 15 years of age. By that time, he already had acquired a love for the Blues from his late mother. “My mother used to play boogie-woogie piano, that she learned from Fats Domino.” David said, “Guys used to come around the house playing guitars. That’s how I learned how to play.” About a year or so after his arrival to Chicago, young David (Chainsaw) and his brother moved to Evanston, IL. They first lived on Howard St., near Paulina Ave and Juneway Terrace.
. . .almost killed by white supremacist, and was homeless . . .
He started playing guitar professionally at the age of 16, forming a “Jimi Hendrix Band of Gypsies” kind of neighborhood band called Drifted Soul. The band toured locally, and had an appearance on a local television show called “Stars of Tomorrow”, that was hosted by a young Don Cornelius in his pre-Soul Train days in Chicago. At the age of 18, and after playing locally for a couple of years, Chainsaw was “compelled” by the “Blueseman instinct” to hitch hike around the country, experiencing things that would add to his mystique and permeate his musical style. Incidentally, this was the same year he married his first wife.
While on his journey in the “late ‘70s early ‘80s”, Chainsaw played in various bands, including a Reggae band, and even an Elvis Presley impersonator. He was shot in Houston, Texas, almost killed by white supremacist, and was homeless for most of the time. He survived on what he calls “the Bluesman’s instinct”. Which reinforces the idea of the Blues being more than just music, it is a way of life.
Upon returning to Evanston after his journey (and divorcing his first wife), David took the name “Chainsaw”, which actually is more of a description of how he views his guitar, rather than a description of his character. When asked about where the name came from, he says:
“Most guitar players call their guitar and “axe”. Well, you can cut more with a chainsaw than an axe! If there was a woman, and there was a storm coming in, and she needed wood for the fire. . . the man that could get the wood faster would be her man! So, who would get the job? The man with the axe or the man with the chainsaw?!”
Just like the man himself, his Flying-V guitar (named so due to the fact that is looks like a “v” laying on its side) has been on a few journeys itself. From being pawned then sold during a particularly hard stretch during Chainsaw’s life, and being stolen when someone stole the van he had parked in front of a gas station containing all of his equipment. Yet, the guitar found its way home each time! When Chainsaw says that it was all “by the grace of God”, I have to concur.
Chainsaw writes most of his own material. He has such a deep wealth of experience to draw from, singing and performing his own songs is only natural. This also is the cornerstone of Chainsaw’s unique sound. “I like to be different.”, says Chainsaw. When you listen to his many albums, you can hear his soul being poured out onto every track. When you watch him play, you can see his history. “I was watching a video tape (we) had done on me, and I noticed that I hunch over when I play. I’m bent over like I’m pickin’ cotton. That’s the way I stand when I’m workin’ hard!”
It turns out, after all of these years, Chainsaw Dupont is just a country boy from the Mississippi Delta, pickin’ the Blues. . . his own way.
Source: Recorded interview of David “Chainsaw” Dupont by Chip Ratliff, October, 2010. For more info and discography On Chainsaw Dupont, go to www.chainsawdupont.com