Figgy Duff | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Figgy Duff

Figgy Duff. Newfoundland folk group.

Figgy Duff

Figgy Duff. Newfoundland folk group. Named for a raisin pudding popular on the island, it was formed in 1975 in St John's by Noel Dinn (piano, drums) and Pamela Morgan (vocals), with Philip Dinn (vocals, percussion), Kelly Russell (violin), Art Stoyles (accordion), and Dave Panting (mandolin, bass guitar). Dinn (b St John's 25 Dec 1947, d St John's 26 July 1993) and Morgan (b Grand Falls, Nfld, 25 Nov 1957) have been constant to Figgy Duff. Personnel otherwise varied with each of its three albums to 1990: Figgy Duff (Posterity PTR-13014, issued in 1980) with Panting and the accordionist Geoff Butler; After the Tempest (Boot BOS-7243, issued in 1984) with Panting, Butler and the bass guitarist Derek Pelley; Weather Out the Storm (Hypnotic 71356-1000, CD and cass, issued in 1990) with Kelly Russell, Frank Maher (accordion, harmonica), Bruce Crummell (guitar) and Rob Laidlaw (bass).

Based in St John's, save for a period 1977-8 in Toronto, Figgy Duff has performed across Canada in nightclubs (eg, with some frequency at the Ship Inn, St John's, and the Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto) and at the Atlantic Edmonton, Mariposa, Owen Sound, Vancouver, and other folk festivals. It first travelled to Ireland and England in 1977, returning to Great Britain in 1982 and annually 1985-9, and also performing on occasion in Germany and Holland. It made its US debut at the 1981 Philadelphia Folk Festival and has appeared at other festivals (eg, the 1988 New Orleans Heritage Jazz and Blues Festival) and toured in New England and elsewhere.

Figgy Duff's early repertoire comprised traditional Newfoundland folk material given respectful, if affectionate performances carried by Morgan's unadorned, soft-edged singing. The group subsequently made increasingly progressive use of its Celtic influences, to the point on its third album of employing synthesizers and integrating mainstream pop - without, however, losing its ties to its island heritage. Weather out the Storm included several original songs by Dinn and/or Morgan, among them the title tune and 'Heart of a Gypsy'. The group also has recorded fiddle pieces by Émile Benoit (whom it has accompanied on occasion in concert) and Rufus Guinchard. Figgy Duff has written and performed incidental music- eg, for the film The Third Walker (1977) and a production in St John's of Shakespeare's The Tempest (1982) - and prepared a 'folk opera,' A Nobleman's Wedding (1982).

Further Reading