Chris Duffy – aka “Duffles”, or “Digits” Dufaye – has played the banjo for about forty years, with a few episodes of respite along the way, to keep his sanity, and that of others.
He is one of the first generation of Bluegrass banjo players in Australia, along with people like Trevor Warner and the late Peter Hayes. He has spent about half his working life as a full-time musician, and put in a few thousand hours on the road, and in studio work. After launching his early career as a backing musician for Australia’s best known country musicians, he toured in his own right on the Arts Council,folk festival and club circuits.
Chris was Australia’s first National Banjo Champion. He also had several years performing in professional musical theatre as a pit musician and stage performer, most notably in the two-year run in Australia of the musical hit “Big River”, as banjoist and guitarist. He has played on many movie sound tracks and written for TV shows. He had five albums released on the Larrikin label under his own name.
In the 1980’s and 90’s he shook up the acoustic music fraternity by bringing artists to Australia and touring them. These artists include Dan Crary, Byron Berline, Vince Gill, Bill Keith and Mark O’ Connor, as well as Blues supremos John Hammond and Charlie Musselwhite.
He loves to play arrangements of fiddle tunes and ragtime pieces. He also cooks up 5 string banjo interpretations of Latin and Classical themes, and has recorded Bach and Mozart pieces. Having said that, Scruggs style is the real McCoy and is at the heart of the playing.
He was forced to relinquish the music career in the mid 1990’s after a serious motorcycle smash – which tells you that he is a petrol-head as well. He now confines himself to 4 wheelers – owning and restoring classic Alfa Romeos. His recovery included intensive study of the Jazz guitar – swing and hard bop ; and has a project transcribing the works of Grant Green now under way. He is developing a new spin on his banjo skills to incorporate modern jazz concepts.
He is releasing a new CD in September 2011, which is intended as a reflection on a long and successful career, as well as coming up with a new take on a few old warhorses. It is intended as a statement of his musical values and his unique brand of offbeat humour.
Chris has developed a one man show that reflects all these interests and incorporates a musical tribute to some of the banjo vaudevillians of the 1930’s and 1950’s. He is engaging with some old friends and associates, including the great Paul Wookey, to play and present quality acoustic music to Australian audiences.
Chris says he owes everything to the fine musicians who have spent time with him and shared their knowledge. In return, he teaches and conducts workshops, and will acts as mentor to younger players on the up and up.
His plans are to just keep on doing more of the same. And he aims to perfect his Italian cooking and barista skills. In his other life as a psychiatric clinical educator he is planning a volunteer capacity-building project in a developing country in collaboration with colleagues.
Chris plays a Crafters of Tennessee Maple Classic 5 banjo. His archtop guitars are a Benedetto Bravo de Luxe and a 1964 Guild X500 through Jazzkat and Tomkat amps. He also plays a 2002 model Martin HD28 Vintage series with forward shifted braces.
Chris Duffy passed away in July 2012 – read the many tributes to Chris’s life here.
Chris You were a formidable influence on my life. I feel privileged to have played with you and greatly indebted to you for taking an interest in me as a young picker, introducing me to BCH, Vince Gill, and Dan Crary. One of the greatest nights of my life was picking with Dan Crary at your place in Balmain eating your delicious Laksa. Your music rings loud across this beautiful land and as long as wind blows through the ghost gums you will be forever “picking in the wind”.
Just heard of your passing. Only ever met you twice, however special humans only need one encounter to make others feel special. May the universe embrace you and give you eternal musical joy. You are a beautiful man. Love you sweet man. XXXXXXXX
I have a vinyl LP of yours “Ambidextrous” and I’m wondering if it is available on CD. Are any of your other albums available on CD?
Cheers, Bandy Auld
i was getting banjo leasons from when you were at folkways but unfortunately it was stolen
i finaly got new one i still have the keep on pickin record and all the hand written tabs you gave me
hope all is well for you mike
Great to hear from you. Hope your career is continuing to thrive.
I don’t know if you recall my occupation but I became a specialist forensic odontologist a liitle while ago and did a lot of work in Bali and especially Thailand after the tsunami. It affected me a bit and when I came back I was uncomfortable with the attacking tone of that lovely Stelling Superstar you imported for me.and in fact all banjos.
I have been working with John Morris for a few years now on fingerstyle guitar (he tells me you produced one of his albums?)and doing some uppicking banjo. But I hanker for the drive of bluegrass again! I have most of your work on vinyl but it would be terrific if you could steer me to a source of your series of albums on CD or MP3. I loved the simplicity of your arrangements that nevertheless captured the essence of the pieces. The Grey Eagle I mentioned is a classic example of that.
Anyway great to hear from you. Are you still accepting students? I am in Kirrawee near Sutherland now so I am in town!
By the way everybody.. the new banjo CD is still needing cover art and mixing down to stereo, so another couple of months.
just thought of you today, this is Moira, I am Graham Vicks ex wife, we are still best of friends and Julie Georges (jules francois) sister. from the Southern comfort days!!! There is a talented young Banjo player in my building I live in Singapore now, I was telling him about your marvellous work the other day and thought I would just say hi and how wonderful a musician you always have been. I get to work with some of the best as I am an image stylist and makeup artist, I work with David Foster and friends, jose carreras ,Carlos Santana , Peter Cetera Yo yo ma and many more but I include you in the bunch hope all is well with you do lets know if you are doing any interesting workshops and I will send this young man along
gday Moira…Jules told me youd spoken with her about the banjo guy.. cool! lots o love,C.
You were my first musical guru and I owe you a lot for the understanding of the total musical process. I have been working with John Morris of the Blues Preachers on fingerstyle guitar for a while now but I am still a recovering banjo player!! I still love the sound of the Stelling Superstar which you imported for me in 1978.
Chris I need to get some quality banjo music rolling through my head to get back into the kind of banjo you taught me back then.
Can you connect me with a site which will allow me to purchase your series of albums, hopefully on CD rather than vinyl/ Also, as a special request, is it at all possible to obtain a tab of your version of Grey Eagle, which frankly is the version which captures the essence of the melody and is accessible.
Cheers and many thanks for the musical education
hi russell.. i often think of you. i possibly do have it hand tabbed -grey eagle that is.send me an email and i’ll chat more
You may remember me – I was Allan Bosanquet’s business partner (graphic design). I noticed you on this site and it’s good to see you doing so well. I am currently learning to use my square neck dobro – such a beautiful sound. I thought within your circle of friends/musicians you might be able to suggest someone who teaches the same. I would appreciate any feedback.
Hope to hear from you,
Lanky! howdy doo! can only recommend Homespun DVDs !
Met you many years ago in Jabiru when you were touring with John Kane.It was Grey Eagle on Your Keep on Pickin album that inspired me.I still play 3 to 4 hours a day and still have the Bellflower you ordered for me 26 years ago.I recently bought a Pat Cloud model Banjola from Gerry Hale’s Guitar Gallery in Melbourne, don’t know if you’ve played one but a great instrument, 5 string neck. Pat uses one to play some of his jazz arrangements.
great .. sorry for the delay. i met Pat Cloud in the 70’s a couple of times. he was living in a caravan on Hermosa Beach! i think.
definitely not your average joe, that one!
Hey Chris, I met you once at Tamworth a zillion years ago. I have your Stelling Bellflower that you recorded Ambidextrous with. The album came with the banjo and I have it framed next to me as I type this… Lol. You’re a legend mate, you inspired me to play banjo after hearing “Keep on Pickin” way back in the 80’s.
thanks Tim…you are too too kind!
I have had “ambidextrous” cleaned up and remastered digitally. I’d be happy to give you a copy.
Just finished my new CD “Banjo Time’…haven’t done the cover art yet.