Derek Duffy was born in Kilkenny, Ireland, and moved early on to Birmingham, England. He says he began his musical career at about 6 years old when his school had a competition and he won it singing a Freddie and the Dreamers song with a dance routine. Later on, he says, his dad came home with a harmonica for him and he was hooked.
He played in several bands and duos, as well as solo, during his teen years after moving out of Ireland to England, including being the lead singer and rhythm guitar for a reggae band. During his time at art college in the 1970’s, he busked on the streets of England and later on, after moving to Canada, he moved across the country earning extra cash for the journey “playing for coins,” he says. When he got to the West Coast he continued to supplement his income as a gardener with weekend busking and later on in a touring band called Kettle of Fish, with whom he played festivals and nightclubs for five years.
After living in BC for some 18 years or so and playing shows and festivals both as a band member and a solo songwriter, he married an American woman and moved to the Pacific Northwest where he started a band called Finnegan’s Wake, which played local venues and festivals. To date, he’s recorded three CDs and one cassette tape, two of which were solo and the others with his bands.
During his time in Bellingham, he’s written and performed in many venues, including the Subdued Stringband Jamboree and the Northwest Washington Fair, as well as restaurants and bars, clubs, and halls.
“My songwriting has been basically stories of my life and longings with some of them simply raucous dancing songs,” he says.
“The principal theme of my solo shows is ‘Songs of an Immigrant.’”
In addition to his lovely Irish vocals, Derek plays guitar, bazouki, bod’hran, mandolin, and harmonica.
His current band, The Devilly Brothers, plays every other Sunday at the Kulshan Brewery and at Stones Throw Brewery and other venues.
He’s also a member of the trio Skellig, playing Celtic, Americana, and English acoustic tunes.
Derek has a solo show from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27, at The Chuckanut Center, 103 Chuckanut Drive N., just north of Fairhaven Park. In October, he’s playing during the Bellingham Irish Festival from 9 to 9:45 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5, with the Devillys, and solo from 8 to 8:45 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, both at at the Honey Moon Mead and Cider, 1053 N. State St., (behind the Pepper Sisters).