Willy ‘Mink’ DeVille

Willy DeVille was a New York low-life who was equally influenced by doo-wop, New Orleans funk, gypsy cabaret, latin descargas, mid-sixties girl groups and early sixties soul. His own music successfully combined influences from each, but bringing a Bowery aesthetic to the music that led to his band, Mink DeVille, being the house band at CBGBs for some years.

His personal style went through a few phases, and when he retired to New Orleans late in his life, suffering both addiction problems and pancreatic cancer, he looked pretty much like Keef in Pirates of the Caribbean. But in his prime the man went for tight trousers, pointy boots, pencil moustache and jazz spot, and big earrings topped by bigger hair. In fact, Willy’s hair was his glory. That shit was big!

It’s a look that’s got equal amounts British invasion, Italian mafioso, Puerto Rican street musician and gypsy fairground roustabout. It was ostentatious and slightly feminine, but threatening with it, and mostly dark. Romany earrings, slim cigars and mean glances were accessories. It was an act, but like all the best acts, it defined the man and man merged with style.

I’d like to have asked the man how he got to keep that pompadour at such a precipitous height, but I suspect he’d have dismissed me with a wave of his brandy glass. Check him and the band out in this video from the early eighties.

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~ by Lord Leigh Park on April 10, 2011.

One Response to “Willy ‘Mink’ DeVille”

  1. Excited by the new blog concept, and looking forward to seeing who will feature.
    Fashionwise I would point to in no particular order:
    Murray Melvin
    David Bowie
    Robert Morley
    Jean Gabin
    Cary Grant
    and anyone in trousers above the ankle and loafers sans socks

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