Duffy Power (born Raymond Leslie Howard; 9 September 1941 – 19 February 2014) was an English blues and rock and roll singer.
He grew up loving music, and his influences included composers from George Gershwin to Edward Elgar, as well as singers ranging from Paul Robeson to Al Jolson. He was drawn to blues and jazz as a young teenager, and that eventually led him to the music of Elvis Presley and Ray Charles, among others.
He latched on to skiffle music after its emergence in the UK in the mid-1950s and formed a band which would play under Putney Bridge, "because of the echo". His friends nicknamed him "Duff" after the American film star Howard Duff, and he then fronted a rock'n'roll group called Duffy and the Dreamers. His performances tended toward the bluesy side of rock & roll, and he was apparently as happy to cover a Leadbelly song as an Elvis Presley number.
He was discovered at age 17 by promoter/manager Larry Parnes at a performance in a rock'n'roll dance competition at the Gaumont, Shepherd's Bush and signed up, eventually rechristened Duffy Power -- as with other promoters of the period, Parnes liked to choose memorable stage names for his artists, and the "Power" reportedly came from actor Tyrone Power. After seeing Cliff Richard and Marty Wilde perform in concert, he gave up the guitar to free himself up as a singer, and was later signed to Fontana Records.In keeping with the trends of the era and the sensibilities of most British talent managers, his repertoire and career were directed toward the most commercial side of rock & roll -- though he did cover Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," his other five singles for Fontana came from the repertoires of Bobby Darin and Bobby Rydell. Meanwhile, his heart still lay with the grittier side of American music -- Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" and Muddy Waters' "Hoochie Coochie Man" were touchstones on a voyage of discovery that took place amid extensive package tours arranged by Parnes.
Like his Parnes stablemate Billy Fury, he developed his skill as a singer in directions that gave him a range and flexibility far beyond the needs of the British teen idol image that his manager cultivated. Due to his lack of chart success under Parnes, he left him in 1961 and began to grow more and more depressed until finally he attempted suicide by gassing himself. Fortunately a friend helped him discover rhythm & blues by taking him to a local club to recover.
After moving to Parlophone Records in late 1962, the producer Ron Richards thought that Power should have a grittier rhythm and blues sound. Power took steps to show what he could really do; one of his singles that year (for the Beatles' own Parlophone label, no less) was a cover of the Lennon/McCartney song "I Saw Her Standing There," done in early 1963, before poaching the quartet's albums for singles became the thing to do -- his backing band on that single was the Graham Bond Organisation, who were already becoming an important part of the British blues scene in London, and whose members included Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. But the most impressive aspect of the recording, given its early date, was Power and the band's thorough reinvention of song, a strong hint of just how much talent and ambition resided behind that fading teen idol persona.He recorded a fine, sultry version of "It Ain't Necessarily So", and his other singles included "Hey Girl", "Parchman Farm" and "Tired, Broke and Busted"; but the best single was his own song, "A Woman Made Trouble".
Power worked with Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, but he found it difficult to be part of a band, even one as good as that. Next came Duffy Nucleus with Danny Thompson, John McLaughlin and Terry Cox. They released an album, Innovations, in 1971, which contained his best composition, "Mary Open the Door". From time to time he played sessions as a harmonica player and is featured on the soundtrack for The Italian Job (1969). He also worked with Bert Jansch and Ian Matthews.
By the second half of the decade, Power worked for the DHSS as a messenger and hardly plated at all. He began re-emerging slowly in the 1980s, initially through the BBC, and in 2000 appeared on a Bert Jansch tribute record, People on the Highway. Power was somewhat more active in the 21st century, performing and recording more regularly than at any time since the early '70s. He died in 2014 at the age of 72.
(Compiled from Bruce Eder @ All Music & Spencer Leigh @ The Independent)