Duke Henderson (died 1972), born Sylvester
C. Henderson, was an American blues shouter and jazz singer in the
mid-1940s. His styles included West Coast blues and jump blues. In the late
1940s he renounced his past and began broadcasting as a minister and gospel
DJ. He eventually became a preacher.
In 1945 Henderson made his debut recordings with the New York based Apollo
label. Jack McVea recommended Henderson to the label, and he was backed on
the recording dates by several notable Los Angeles session musicians. These
included McVea, Wild Bill Moore and Lucky Thompson (saxophones), Gene
Phillips (guitar), Shifty Henry and Charlie Mingus (bass violin), plus Lee
Young and Rabon Tarrant (drums). The recordings were not a commercial
success and Henderson lost his recording contract with Apollo.
In 1947 Al "Cake" Wichard recorded for Modern Records billed as the Al
Wichard Sextette, and featured vocals by Henderson. Henderson subsequently
recorded material for a number of labels over several years. His work was
released by Globe, Down Beat, Swing Time, Specialty ("Country Girl" b/w
"Lucy Brown", October 1952), Modern, and Imperial. Henderson ended up at
Flair Records, where his 1953 release, "Hey Mr. Kinsey", was billed as
recorded by Big Duke, and displayed a knowledge of the then current thinking
on human sexual activity.
Later in the decade, Henderson renounced his past, and commenced
broadcasting on XERB billed as Brother Henderson. His ministrial gospel DJ
career there was short-lived, although the radio station was later utilised
by Wolfman Jack. In the late 1950s Henderson broadcast with KPOP in Los
Angeles. After his DJ career, Henderson went on to become a preacher.
In February 1959 Billboard reported that Proverb Records was being jointly
formed by Brother Henderson. By 1964 its subsidiary label, Gospel Corner,
Henderson died in Los Angeles in 1972.
In 1994 Delmark issued a compilation CD, containing 20 tracks from
Henderson's late 1945 Apollo recordings.