Al Dupuis grew up listening to the sounds of his father’s fiddle, and first picked up a guitar at the age of nine. Now, a lifetime of music later, he is to be inducted into the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame on Oct. 17.
Born in Chipman, N.B., and raised in Minto, N.B., Dupuis now teaches French at Digby Regional High School—although his teaching career was put on hold in 1977 when he decided to follow a career in music.
Music is “just part of who I am obviously, it’s something that is a means of expression,” he says.
He plays a wide variety of genres including country, folk, blues, rock, pop, Irish, French and more, and figures he knows 4,000 songs. Musical inspirations include Cat Stevens, Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard and the Beatles.
Since writing his first song at the age of 13, he has written over 1,000, and his favorite is one he wrote about friends in he met while teaching in Woodstock N.B. The song is called, ‘Friends I Left Behind.’
Touring through Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Ontario, Dupuis said his favorite places to perform are Miramichi and Oromocto.
He recorded four times, releasing an album in 1982 called ‘Be With Me’. Dupuis recorded in Halifax, twice in Nashville and in Fredericton.
A CD titled ‘Windows to the Heart’ was recently released by Dupuis, and contains 16 original tracks, plus an old favourite, ‘Amazing Grace’.
He went through a series of television shows in the 1980s, and performed as a guest on the Tommy Hunter Show, Wrap Around Nashville, and Maritime shows such as Maritime Country and Country East. “I was a regular on French television, it was a CBC country show from 1984 – 86 and that show was LaBastragne. I was accepted to be on ‘You Can Be a Star’, that was a big show back on the Nashville Network, back in the 1980s, I sent them a tape and they wrote me a letter back and they wanted me on the show but I declined to go because I had to pay for the flight and I didn’t have money,” Dupuis remembers.
Aside from the television work, Dupuis also won Maritime contemporary song-writing contest in 1988 and won male country vocalist at the first Francophone Music Awards in 1990.
His song ‘You’ve been special to me’ hit number one in the early 1980s in New Brunswick and number two on the charts in Swift Current, Sask. “It went across the country,” he said.
He spoke of a day in the 1980s when singer Bobby Curtola wanted to manage him, however Curtola suddenly had to take off to Las Vegas.
Dupuis also turned down an opportunity from a writer with County Music News Magazine to get him a band and go on tour because he wanted to remain independent as a one-man show.
With more than 15 years in the music industry, Dupuis feels it would be harder this day in age to enter the industry. “Back then, we didn’t have to compete with karaoke and DJs,” he said. “I would say to a young person it’s going to be difficult to make a living play bars. I think you need to go through pretty much folk festivals, jazz festivals, blues, whatever it is you do and try it that way.”
Dupuis was inducted into the Minto Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007, and his father Arthur was to be inducted this past weekend.
Dupuis will be in Fredericton for his induction Oct. 17 to the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame. “It’s an honour and the best part about it is I’ll be able to see some people I haven’t seen in a while,” said Dupuis. “I didn’t play for awards, I just play because I love to do it, I write for the same reason.”
Dupuis is performing Oct. 1 at the Digby Pines Golf Club from 8 to 11 p.m. for members and guests.
For information on where to purchase tickets for the Oct. 17 gala visit www.nbcmhf.com