July 22, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Donna Terek: Donna's Detroit

'Pie Guys' by day, musicians by night: Paying the bills, deliciously

The 'Pie Guys'
The 'Pie Guys': Two musicians, Don Duprie of Doop and the Inside Outlaws, and Rodney Henry , a transplant from Baltimorehave started a pie business called Dangerously Delicious Pies out of Detroit's Comet Bar.

Detroit — Ever wonder how musicians survive on that $5 cover you pay a bar's doorman? Most will tell you they can't.

But two local musicians — arguably two of the best songwriters in Metro Detroit — think they have an answer to their economic dilemma: play for love, bake pie for profit. They have begun to be referred to around town, with heartfelt affection, as The Pie Guys.

Rodney Henry, a transplant from Baltimore, and Don "Doop" Duprie have fired up the long-idle stove at Detroit's hole-in-the wall Comet Bar near Comerica Park and are baking up a lip-smacking storm with their "Dangerously Delicious Pies."

Henry, 46, came up with the pie idea when fatherhood loomed and being a touring musician wasn't paying the bills.

Henry talks like a hipster from another era. He calls people "cats" and uses phrases like "crazy, man" and "outta sight."

He still remembers the first slice of pie he ever ate when he was 7 — French apple served by a pink-uniformed waitress with "Dottie" embroidered over her breast. "At the first taste, I was hooked," he says.

Nothing would please him more, he says, than to have some middle-aged guy say of him some day, "I went to this pie shop when I was little and this crazy, tattooed maniac was behind the bar baking pies, and it was the greatest thing ever."

So, armed with a Farmer's Almanac recipe book, the tattooed maniac who knew nothing about making pies himself opened a pie shop in Baltimore, his hometown, and got other musicians to play there between gigs.

The shop took off and, being on the road so much, he looked for other cities that needed pie. He got a friend to open one in Washington, D.C., and set his sights on Austin for his next.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Texas: He fell in love with Detroit. And he made a new friend here — Duprie, leader of the alt-country band Doop and the Inside Outlaws.

Duprie's day job — every musician has a day job — was "getting burning babies all over me" as a firefighter and paramedic in his hometown of River Rouge. "I was what you call a pipeman, which is the first one in the door with the hose to put the fire out."

Laid off for a year — and then again after six months back to work at the River Rouge Fire Department — Doop was unemployed and ready for inspiration when he met Rodney "The Pie Man" at last year's South By Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.

"He sang this song 'Paper Boy' and I thought it was the best song I heard the whole time I was at South By Southwest," Doop says. "I don't think anyone touched it."

Two months later, Doop heard Henry was coming back to Detroit to gig and invited him to share some recording time at a studio he'd booked.

"I went in to record my song 'Paper Boy' and came out of the studio with an EP titled '23 minutes and 6 seconds in Detroit,'" Henry says. "That's exactly how long it took to record that sucker."

Then the two were having some beers at the Comet one day and the bartender mentioned the kitchen wasn't being used. "And next thing you know we have a pie shop — at the Comet Bar," says Doop, who still wears a look of disbelief as he says it.

The still-touring Henry moved his home base to Detroit. But first he took Doop to Baltimore and taught him to bake pie, which was not much of a stretch for the firehouse chef. And now the Comet Bar is the latest outpost in the Dangerously Delicious empire, which now has three shops in the D.C. area plus the Baltimore original.

Working out of a dive bar suits the Pie Guys' punk rock sensibility. Their logo is black and sports the crossed bones of a pirate flag.

Despite just being awarded a Kresge Artist's Grant, the 36-year-old Duprie hopes the business at the Comet will grow — maybe into a stand-alone shop.

Henry and his two kids Lily-Anne, 7, and Waylon, 9 — while they're here for the summer from Florida — bake alongside Doop when Henry's not touring. But the Comet enterprise is Duprie's.

Eventually, Sam Wood, Dupe's friend/manager, will come on board and help run the shop. Henry will continue to stop in and help out, as well as collect his cut for developing the idea and the business as he does with his other Dangerously Delicious outlets.

Henry doesn't like to refer to his business plan as a franchise because, he says, "most of these people have been running around with me for a long time and they wanted to get into the pie business," he says. "I'm just going to help them get into the business and start it out."

The Pie Guys bake savory pies that make a great main course with optional salad as well as the fruit and cream pies we're more familiar with. The menu changes, depending on what's coming out of the oven that day. It could be a double crust "pizza" pie, chicken pie or Doop's invention, the Con-quiche-da-door (Sam Wood's spelling). Duprie stresses the ingredients are gourmet quality and the freshest he can find.

"It's kinda like doing music," says Doop. "You're putting a product out there that you're taking a lot of time to create. And then just hoping that people will like it."

A chicken pie created by 'Pie Guys' Don "Doop" Duprie of Doop and the Inside Outlaws and Rodney Henry,sits on the bar at the Comet Bar near Comerica Park. / Donna Terek/The Detroit News
musicians, Don "Doop" Duprie,left, of Doop and the Inside ... (Donna Terek/The Detroit News)
The "Pizza Pie," is a Dangerously Delicious Pies original. (Donna Terek/The Detroit News)
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