Roy Dunn is, at 59, one of a vanishing breed--a true country blues singer. The native of Eastonton, Ga., started performing in the late '30s in the Dunn Brothers Group, putting more gospel time into the Victory Band Spiritual Singers and the Galilee Four. But his friendships also extended to Georgia blues legends like Blind Willie McTell and Buddy Moss, who influenced the aggressive slide-guitar style that Dunn will showcase at the Washington Ethical Society Auditorium on Monday night.
Like many bluesmen, Dunn used to make a fair amount of money playing fish fries, parties and special holidays. His personal favorite was the Fourth of July. "I used to make some money," Dunn said, remembering holiday weekends where he could take in as much as $400 "plus all the barbecue I wanted to eat. Some folks would get drunk and give me all the money they made in a week. Some would even borrow money to get me to keep playing."
One of Dunn's songs says "the blues ain't nothing but a good man feelin' bad thinkin' about the troubles he once had." If that's true, his own life has given him plenty to sing about: five years spent in prison on a manslaughter conviction; a 1968 car accident that killed one of his four children and left him partially disabled. Still, Dunn has displayed the resiliency so common in the blues world. He's recorded several albums for the Trix label and tours as he's able. Unlike most bluesmen, though, he evidently has no interest in going to Europe. Another Georgia bluesman, Eddie Kirkland, once told Dunn the food overseas was bad. "He said they didn't eat nothing but boiled fish. If they's to give me some boiled fish, I'd get sick. They've got to fry it or barbecue it or something."