Arts & Culture

Five Minutes With: J. Howard Duff, rock star maker

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  • If you've always wanted to be a rock star but never really knew how to play anything except air guitar, this is your chance to shine.

    The first Rock Star Camp for adults runs Nov. 29 through Dec. 3 in Bluffton. The class is aimed at taking semi-proficient musicians, hopefully taking them from greenies to guitar heroes. Or, at least, helping them carry a tune by the end of the week.

    Longtime rocker and music teacher J. Howard Duff of Bluffton modeled the class after his Rock Star Camps for kids. His bands Metro Blues and Flashback frequent the Lowcountry.

    Duff salutes those who are about to rock.

    Question. Where did the idea come from?

    Answer. We do a rock star camp for kids, and I got a lot of parents asking when I was going to do a camp for adults. So I finally decided to do it.

    It's really cool with the kids to watch them jell and watch their confidence build. You see kids who you never expect to be in a leadership roll suddenly step up. One kid in particular walked in for the concert night (at the end of camp) with a green mohawk.

    Q. I'd be surprised if any adults did that.

    A. As I said to someone, I won't throw them out but if anyone walks in in spandex, they can be sure they'll have their picture plastered over the Internet.

    Q. What do you think the talent pool on Hilton Head is like for rock musicians? This always struck me as more of a Jimmy Buffett type of place, and that's not really rock.

    A. Yeah, not so much. But I think there are people around here who will get into it. The people this will reach out to are from the '70s and '80s eras. We're thinking the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC.

    Q. Can you be too old to rock?

    A. Never. I'm 60, and I've been doing it for 46 years now.

    Q. Who have you played with?

    A. I've played with Bruce Springsteen, Chuck Berry. Joey Kramer from Aerosmith used to be my drummer. We were playing up in Boston in a touring band. This was the early '70s. Joey said, "This will be my last night." That happens, so I was fine with it. He said "Let me show you my new setup." So we take a ride into downtown Boston, basically the ghetto, to a three-story old Brownstone. Go to the second floor where there's a bunch of amps, a full drum set and a P.A. system. This is a residential neighborhood with people living above and below them. This guy gets introduced to me, and he's basically passed out. His name is Steve. Steven Tyler. Joe Perry the guitar player is passed out with his mouth open in the kitchen. I'm thinking, "Man, Joey, you made a stupid choice." Shows you how much I know.