[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).

Blunt White
Banker by day, Bluesman by night

I remember the first time I laid eyes, and ears, on Paul deLay, and it blew me away.

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 rain.

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 recently.

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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