I like to use this blog to write about what influences me as an artist, but also to shine a spotlight on some great artists who never received the recognition they deserved. I call them the great unsung heroes of the Blues, and unfortunately, there are quite a few incredible artists who remain unknown despite deserving fame and fortune…
One of these is Paul deLay. To harmonica players who know of him, Paul deLay is legendary, a virtuoso harmonica genius, but even in the small harmonica community there are some who never heard of him. When I first heard an album of his I was blown away. In a genre (Blues) and with an instrument (harmonica) which are crowded with cliches and copycatting, deLay sounded unique, like he had just re-invented the whole thing. He used different scales, different instruments, never played stock riffs, always sounded fresh and unique. He was a soulful singer, never mimicking Blues stereotypes, and a very original songwriter. When I heard He was coming to Tel Aviv I made sure to go to all his shows, befriended him and sat in and jammed with him, just trying to learn all I could from this master. He was warm , generous, funny and just a joy to hang with. And the main lesson I learned from him was never copy, always bring your own flavor to the table, and keep your music honest and from the heart.
Paul HATED cliches and always tried to break the mold. And he had a great sense of humor. At one of the shows, someone in the audience called out “play “Sweet home Chicago” “ - deLay deadpanned “put together your own band and play it yourself”.
Unfortunately, Paul deLay never achieved commercial success, even within the Blues genre, and rarely toured outside the Pacific northwest of the USA where he lived. He passed away suddenly on March 7th 2007, at the age of 55.
If you are a harmonica player, you must hear Paul deLay, just to see how you can play the Blues without sounding like hundreds of others. If you are a music lover, you owe it to yourself to listen to Paul deLay, who’s music was funny, soulful, original, honest and swinging….
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