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Duke Special joins holiday lineup
new slt duke special
Northern Ireland musician Duke Special will perform at the Crest Theater at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. This fundraiser for the Back Room and the Barton County Arts Council is just one of many events going on Saturday evening in downtown Great Bend. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

For a sample of Duke Special's music, visit his website,

By Tribune staff


After Black Friday comes Spectacular Saturday in Great Bend, starting with the holiday parade at 5:30 p.m. Now friends of the Back Room have added some international flair to the festivities, with a concert featuring musician Duke Special from Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Duke Special will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Crest Theater. Admission will be a freewill donation to the Barton County Arts Council in support of its Back Room, said Linda Welch, coordinator. The suggested donation is $10 per person. CDs, T-shirts and other merchandise will be available for purchase.

Duke Special – real name Peter Wilson – is the self-proclaimed creator of "hobo chic" — a reference both to his distinctive dress style and his refined spin on traditional music hall and vaudeville forms. He reportedly cuts a striking figure on stage, often performing alone with only his piano and old, squeaky gramophone for accompaniment.

Well known in Europe, he wrote the music for the 12 songs used in the London stage play "Mother Courage." He and his band sang the songs on stage with the other actors for all 65 performances.

He recently returned from the stage at the Shanghia China Expo in the UK/Ireland pavilion, where he performed at the bequest of the British Consulate.

A year or so ago, Duke decided to produce his own music. To finance his current release, a three-CD set, he put a page on the Internet where fans could purchase items or request "house gigs" in return for a pledge. During these gigs, Duke would actually come to people’s homes and perform his songs in their living rooms.

Duke’s fans in North America encouraged him to extend the "house gigs" across the ocean. "When Duke announced on his website that he would be willing to come to the U.S. and Canada, I began to make plans for him to perform in or around St. John," Welch said. "The ‘Home for the Holidays’ celebration in Great Bend seemed like the perfect fit. My intention was three-fold, to introduce Duke’s music to Kansas, to raise funds for the Back Room and hopefully to increase the attendance at the celebration."

Duke’s first U.S. tour will take him from coast to coast.