Chris Duarte was just 15 when he auditioned for the talent contest at Jefferson High School in San Antonio, Texas. But the young, burgeoning guitar players was turned down flat.
Boy, did he show them.
Duarte has since earned top honors from Guitar Player magazine, being named its “Best New Talent” in 1995, and finished fourth in the “Best Blues Guitarist” category. And that was behind Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy and B.B. King.
Duarte is true to his Texas roots — he plays a jazzy version of Texas blues, following in the tradition of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Johnny “Clyde” Copleand. And he’s done it with impressive success.
He released his first album, Chris Duarte and the Bad Boys in 1987. But it wasn’t until 1994 that he landed a major label deal, releasing Texas Sugar/Strat Magik on Silverstone Records. It put him on the map, and started building up the fan base that he carries to this day.
The success was well earned. By his own account, Duarte had stumbled badly for years. By 1990, he had been without a band, and so hooked on drugs that he sold his ’63 Strat to a pawnshop, leaving him with one guitar and a briefcase to his name.
Then he turned it around. By the summer of 1991, Duarte was back in the studio and working on his music. The anguish of the previous years fed his music, and made for a crisper and more soulful sound. Since the release of Texas Sugar/Strat Magik, Duarte and his various bandmates have released six other albums, the most recent, the album 396, which was released in January.
Now based in Atlanta, Duarte is nonetheless still all Texas with the guitar. Hopefully he’ll bring that up to the Big Apple sometime soon.
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(NOTE: This is part of my ongoing series of reports on guitar players who fly under the mainstream radar. Keep checking The Listening Room for future installments of guitar players you should know – JF)
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