[Harp-L] Paul deLay story
Below is a reprint of great Paul story that appeared in our local music
monthly, written by Mark Gould (AttorneyGould@xxxxxxx).
Banker by day, Bluesman by night
I remember the first time I laid eyes, and ears, on Paul deLay, and it blew
It was in the very early 80s, while I was in law school in Portland, Oregon.
It was a rainy (so what else is new out there?) Saturday night, and my
buddies and I decided to take a break from studying and go out to drink some
beers and, hopefully, see some good live music.
Desperately, we thumbed through a local music weekly and found a ragtag club
in, if memory serves me, the southeast part of the city that looked like it
would serve our purposes. The advertisement said it was ?blues night,? and
that bottled beer was a dollar. That was more than good enough for us.
Figuring that we couldn?t beat that on a student?s savings, even if the
music stank, we wandered down there. Unfortunately, it looked like a big
mistake from the get-go. The joint was dank, dreary, and a bit smelly, but
with really nowhere else to go, no other plans than to drink, and figuring
that the beer was as cold at that dump as anyplace else, we promptly ordered
the first of many rounds to hopefully get us through what promised to be an
awfully depressing night.
After a couple of hours, around 10 or so, the lights dimmed, and the
evening?s entertainment started. A very big, and I mean very big, guy, with
a harmonica in hand, lumbered onto the stage, a self-professed ?Blues Band?
in tow, and the music started.
Growing up in the blues haven of southern New England, and being weaned on
the likes of Little Walter, James Cotton, Charlie Musselwhite, Paul
Butterfield, and Boston?s own Magic Dick, not to mention my old high school
chum Sugar Ray Norcia, I wasn?t expecting much.
Yet, as soon as deLay blew a few notes, I was, well, blown away. His
physical size was matched only by his talent. He said very little, letting
his music speak for itself, and it spoke volumes.
We stayed, drinking and cheering, through three sets, late into the night
and early into Sunday morning. When, we left the club, deLay, whose bulk
made him very hard to miss, even in a crowd, was standing outside in the
I walked over to him, offered my hand, and said ?somewhere Little Walter is
smiling.? He took my hand in a big, meaty paw, smiled, and said, ?man,
that?s about as nice a compliment as I could get. I?m glad you enjoyed it.?
?Enjoyed it? was putting it mildly. I asked him, in those pre-Internet
search engine days, if he had any music out, and he mentioned an album. The
next day, armed with both a championship-sized hangover and what little cash
I could round up, I went looking for it. I must have gone to three or four
of the great, small Portland independent stores before I found what turned
out to be a gem.
I brought the album home to my apartment, put it on the turntable, and it?s
been a staple of my listening experience since that time. For once, the
quality of the record matched that of the live performance.
I moved away from the Northwest a short time later, and was only able to
follow deLay?s career long distance from then on. Yet, I remained a fan,
buying all of his releases, but, unfortunately, never seeing him live again.
I mention this now, because one of the friends who went to that show with
me, some 25 years ago, e-mailed me last month that deLay passed away
When I heard that, I was sad because his passing robbed the world of another
of the truly great, yet underrated, bluesmen, and there just aren?t that
many of them left anymore.
On the other hand, though, I was so happy to be a fan of this great player,
Paul deLay, whose legacy will live as long as the blues that he played and
clearly loved so much.
Rest in peace, Paul. And keeping blowing that harp.
Comments to Mark T. Gould AttorneyGould@xxxxxxx
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