By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
For well over a decade, “Lightning” Larry Dupio was arguably the Big Island’s premier rock guitarist and his gigs were all standing room only — make that dancing room only.
The Oahu-born-and-bred Dupio left the Big Island on Sept. 10, 2001, the day before the infamous attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He went to Portland, Ore., where he became a favorite on the Rose City’s bustling blues circuit.
“Portland is a great city for music,” Dupio told the Tribune-Herald on Sunday. “It’s got a really thriving blues community and everybody supports it, so it’s able to sustain and survive. … I was able to be in the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival a few times and guys like Buddy Guy, Robben Ford, Charlie Musselwhite, the top blues cats — I was actually on the same show with them. It was a really cool educational thing for me to be exposed to so many different kinds of blues.”
Dupio and his wife, Caroline, moved back to Hawaii after 11 years away, settling this time on Oahu. He also recorded a new album titled “Lightning” and will play a CD release concert with his band, The Chames Gang, Saturday night at the Palace Theater. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the concert starts at 8. Tickets are $15 advance, $20 door. Advance tickets are available at the Palace box office or by calling 934-7010.
The album is Dupio’s second; the first was 2000’s “All Fired Up.” He said the new recording, produced at Dave Millington’s Starstruck Studios in Puna, was “a long time coming.”
“All the time I spent on the mainland, I spent it writing songs about experiences,” Dupio said. “Sometimes, people will tell you their life story and it’s pretty interesting, sometimes. When I decided to move back home, that was the first thing on the list to put together an album and release it as soon as I could. However, it took me a year-and-a-half to get all that together because I was flying over to the Big Island and recording there only.
“This album is pretty much a conscious effort to revive a blues style that is dying out. Players like B.B. King are getting old and they’ve gotta pass the torch to the younger guys and the younger guys have got to take the torch and run with it.”
The songs on the CD are all originals with Chicago blues (“It Wasn’t You”), West Coast blues (“Jealous Man”), acoustic blues (“Three Days”) and blues à la Stevie Ray Vaughan (“Y Do U H8?”). There’s also a steroidal surf track, “Gotta Go Surf,” the ethereal instrumental, “Awake and Dreaming” — and even a reggae cut, “War,” which features Dupio’s son, Andrew, on a rap vocal.
I wrote that song because nowadays society uses the term ‘war’ for just about anything — war against this, war against that. Everything is about war,” he said. “And I was thinking that we’ve got to change that about society. I feel that society has taken war, a really terrible word, and just homogenized it. There’s got to be some time for peace and quiet. Try love for once. A lot of people respond to that.”
Dupio’s aloha shines through despite adversity and tragedy. He suffered a heart attack a number of years ago and rumors — greatly exaggerated, thankfully — of his demise spread like wildfire via the Big Island’s coconut wireless. Unfortunately, his 29-year-old daughter, Athena Kawehilani Dupio, also a musician, died last year of lupus. Dupio called her loss “something that you never get over” and the album is dedicated to her.
“While we were up there on the mainland, I had a chance to join her band and play with her and Andrew,” he said. “Working with my kids was such a kick in the pants.”
Dupio said he’s looking forward to his Hilo homecoming.
“I really can’t wait to come over there and play for my old friends and maybe make some new friends, as well,” he said.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.