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Boyd Lee Dunlop, brother of famed jazz drummer Frankie Dunlop, has just recorded his first album in his 80-year career.
Boyd Lee Dunlop was born in 1926 in Winston Salem, NC. Music brought
him to Buffalo, NY as a child. His family followed his aunt who had taken a
job as a violinist with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Dunlop’s first
piano was found outside his house on the corner, discarded with only half
the keys working. As Dunlop remembers, “I asked my mother if I could
bring it into the house. I thought it would be easy for me to play. If I could
see the notes, I could play. What can I say, a year later we bought a
piano, and here I am.”
Dunlop gave his younger brother, Frankie Dunlop, his first drum lesson. Dunlop recalls, “We used the thin wood from the back of a chair as our sticks.” Younger brother Frankie went on to find fame as a drummer, playing with Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins, Big Jay McNeely, Lionel Hampton, and many other jazz greats, and recording nearly one hundred sides during his career.
Boyd Lee Dunlop’s trajectory followed a different course. Until now he could be found only on one record, a blowsy rhythm and blues session from the late 50’s by Big Jay McNeely. For years Dunlop worked in Buffalo’s steel mills and rail yards, yet his calling was the piano and he played in the clubs around Buffalo, including the storied Colored Musicians Club.