Monday, February 8, 2016

EDITORS PICK - WHO IS MY FAVOURITE CANADIAN BLUES MUSICIAN?


Paul James has been a Canadian blues music superstar for all my adult life. I first met him when I was 17 and he has been in my life ever since.


We became good friends back in the early 1990’s when he came to perform at my university and I convinced him to come after his gig and perform live on my radio show. We kind of left the bar drunk and with beers in our hands and I got fired from my job at the university music store.

However, it was a great radio show and we had a blast.

When Paul found out that I was fired, he gifted me with a big chunk of rock crystal to bring me some good luck. I still have that crystal chunk on my fireplace mantle and Paul and I are still best of friends.

Paul has always been a hard working musician and a true blue entrepreneur. I wanted to introduce Paul to my Spanish blues friends so that they may enjoy this monster entertainer as much as I do.

INTERVIEW



CBBLUES: Congratulations on your continuous success. How many years have you been a professional working musician? I know that you are not shy about telling everyone your age!!

PAUL: I’ve just celebrated my 65th Birthday this month (Jan.18, 2016)… I always loved music, as long back as I can remember, just singing along to the songs on the radio.
I started playing guitar when I was twelve.
I was inspired when I heard the music of the 1960’s British Invasion, bands such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Animals, the Yardbirds & The Kinks to name a few.
By the time I was 13 years old I was very focused on playing guitar.
By the time I was 17 or 18 years old I was playing under age in bars with guys who were about 6 years older than me. I joined the musicians’ union and moved into an apartment with my girlfriend. I was a professional musician because I made my living playing music.
So, to answer your question, I’ve been a professional musician 47 years.

CBBLUES : Who convinced you to go into the business of music?

PAUL : I didn’t need much convincing because a musician is what I wanted to be.
After playing quite a few bars around Ontario, our little group landed a house gig in my home town of Toronto and right on the main street, Yonge St.
The band was called ‘Spring Fever’ and when I became the band leader, I changed the name to “Lick’n’Stick”.
We played 6 days a week from 7pm-1am, playing six forty minute sets each night with a matinee from 4-6pm on Saturdays. We played there at the Bermuda Tavern for nearly two years straight.
Even though we played so much I was still practicing in my apartment three hours a day. I was dedicated and I wanted to somehow maintain being able to make a living playing music.

CBBLUES : What would you say are the most important elements of showmanship?

PAUL: Play the music and songs that you love. That being said, I think you should also play music that your audience likes as well.
When developing my repertoire, I only perform songs that I like a lot. However, if the response from the audience is not good, I drop that song. If the audience likes it, then it’s part of my set list. That also goes for my original songs.
I am a lead guitarist, lead singer, and entertainer.  If you are going to do that, you have to learn to play guitar without looking at your guitar. You have to be looking at the people you are singing to - if you want to put the song over.
Then, if you want to be an entertainer you have to develop your own style and Shtick, all in the same time that you hone your repertoire.
If you do something the folks like, then keep it in the show and always try to do new things to keep your show fresh.
It’s not just what you do; it’s how you do it!
Also, by being a lead guitarist and lead singer you can easily play blues or the kind of Rock ’n’ Roll that comes from Blues, with a pick-up band. You can lead the band musically to play in your style.
The Blues is based on only three chords, so it is easy for good backup musicians to follow, while still allowing a creative entertainer the leeway to put his show over with little or no rehearsal that is if he has his act together!

Boom Boom John Lee Hooker with Paul James


CBBLUES : What is your favorite show trick?

In 1982, after I bought my first wireless guitar. I learned to spin around in circles while playing the guitar behind my head, which is probably my favorite show trick as it is my invention and the audience liked it too.
A lot of great musicians have played the guitar behind their head…Charlie Patton, Jimi Hendrix, T-Bone Walker.
However, I am the Originator of playing guitar behind my head while spinning, LOL… Here’s My Shtick demonstrated in my composition “Beer Bottle Blues”.

Paul James the King of Showmanship Tricks!!

CBBLUES : Do you have any wild story to tell us about your major career?

PAUL : There are quite a few…
My first meeting with Bob Dylan is one of them. In 1986, I was performing at a Toronto Nightclub, The Nags Head North. I was doing my Shtick…that is I got off the stage while playing the guitar behind my head, danced with a girl on the dance floor and spun over to the bar. I ordered a bottle of beer and played guitar with one hand while drinking it.
I then started to play slide guitar with the beer bottle when this fellow from the audience stepped right in front of me and placed his face a foot away from mine.
It was Bob Dylan!
I started a short conversation with him, while I was still playing beer bottle slide guitar. I said I’d like to talk with him and he said meet me at the bar after my set. I said “OK” and spun myself back to the stage to finish my set.
I still had a few songs to play and I was worried that he would be recognized and have to exit. However, when the set was over I met him at the bar and we went back to my dressing room and chatted about music.
He asked me if he could sit in with my band. I said “yes, we know lots of your songs.” He said, “I don’t want to play any of my songs, I’ll just play backup guitar for you.” I said, “OK, do you want to come up on stage when the band goes on?” He said, “Why don’t you play one or two songs then introduce me as a Hitch hiker from Vancouver.” I did that and we performed a two hour set, playing old Rock and Roll, Blues and some of my originals.
After the show we all piled  into my van and headed back to my house. Dylan and I sat on the floor playing acoustic guitars, while laughing, drinking, and smoking, till 10am in the morning.
Since that first meeting we’ve remained friends and we have met or played together many times over the years.


CBBLUES: When are you coming to Spain?

PAUL: I would love to go come to Spain this year if I could get it together. It would be wonderful. I hope it is in the Stars…

CBBLUES : We would love to have you. Door is open at my place my friend - no worries! Big Smile!!

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