Seventeen tracks from the legendary former Muddy Waters blues band member Paul Oscher. This recording features Paul on a variety of musical instruments and vocals over a broad range of blues styles. This is traditional blues at it's best by a living master of the genre.
CONGRATULATIONS TO PAUL OSCHER
2005 HANDY AWARD NOMINEE IN FOUR CATEGORIES:
1. ACCOUSTIC BLUES ALBUM OF THE YEAR
2. ACCOUSTIC BLUES ARTIST OF THE YEAR
3. BLUES SONG OF THE YEAR
4. INSTRUMENTALIST- HARMONICA
Paul Oscher was the first white musician to become a member of the great Muddy Waters blues band (1967-71) He was Muddy's harp player and he lived in Muddy's house on Chicago's southside and shared the basement with the great Otis Spann.
"I was blessed just to be around those cats, the stuff I learned from Muddy and Spann stays with me today-that deep blues timing , phrasing and their concept of tone. When I first came into Muddy's band I knew the harp parts from his records, but I found out right quick that Muddy wasn't playing like the records, Muddy didn't play the stuff like his records and I had to learn how to wait on him to learn his time. He was a behind the beat blues singer and sometimes he would be a little behind the beat, sometimes a whole lot behind. I had to learn how to play with what was around me, I had to learn how to improvise, you couldn't just memorize a harp part and try to squeeze it in. The great thing about Little Walter was he never played the same thing twice, that's why those records with Muddy Waters and Little Walter are as alive today as they were fifty years ago because they were alive when they cut them . They were playing in the moment.
When I joined Muddy Waters band the blues was still very much alive. You could go down to Peppers lounge or Teresa's in Chicago on a Monday night and see a superstar blues variety show. Buddy Guy ,Junior wells , Little Walter, Otis Rush , Earl Hooker, James Cotton, Floyd Jones, Magic Sam,Otis Spann, Little brother Montgomery -great musicians would show up and play , I don't think at that time there was a blues musician I didn't like , they were all that good.
Today I don't listen to much music, I let the sounds of the past guide my way, I think there is still a lot you can still do with that old style blues. That's the kind of blues I fell in love with and that's the kind of blues I play-and it don't have to be a whole lot of notes just the right notes at the right place to tell the story.
Muddy said'you can't get to pretty with the blues' and that's the way I like to play them low down and lonesome.. ". I really enjoy my "alone with the blues show" it lets me stretch out, play the way I feel, I don't have to rehearse anybody and the only one I have to argue with is myself.
How did you get started on the harp?
"When I was a kid I used to pick up some spare change after school delivering groceries. My uncle gave me a marine band harmonica and I was hanging out at the grocery store trying to play Red River valley from the pamplet that came with the harp. ,Jimmy Johnson, a black guy that worked in the store, heard me and said"let me see that whistle you got son" I handed him the harp and he fooled around with it -made like he couldn't play then "whah, Whah ,Whah, he hit it! I was blown away by the sounds coming out of that harp. Turns out Jimmy used to play professionally in medicine shows down south. He had a tone that was somewhere between Big Walter and Peg Leg Sam , that was the first time I had heard the blues on a harmonica live, I was hooked.. Jimmy showed me the rudiments and in about three years I was wailin' and I started playing in black clubs in Brooklyn and Harlem. In 1965, Little Jimmy Mae (a band leader) took me to a blues show at the Apollo theatre, that's when I met MuddyWaters I played a little for him at the time and he took my phone number. About two years later Muddy came to New York and didn't have a harp player. Big Walter Horton was supposed to be on the gig, but he didn't show up when the band left Chicago. I got a call from Luther Georgia Boy Snake Johnson and he told to come down to the gig. I sat in -played two songs on the last set. When Muddy came down off the band stand he asked me, 'Can you travel? That was it, I was living out my dreams"
Muddy and the band played all kinds of venues from the rough and tumble juke joints and black theatres of the chitlin' circuit to the major concert stages of the world. In some parts of the country, Jim Crow was still law. Paul remembers
"We're traveling on this highway and coming into this town where there is a huge billboard with a picture of a KKK nightrider on horseback warning, 'Beware, you are now entering Klan country.' Everybody in the band saw it but no one spoke."
Oscher further recalls,
" when I was in Muddy's band everybody in the band carried a gun, Southside chicago and the road was sometimes a dangerous place . I saw a woman get shot in the head right across the street from Muddys house while I was talking to her, I"ve seen some great things and some terrible things. I was in the truck behind Muddy when he got in that headon collision on highway 51 on our way home from a road house gig in Covington Tennessee. Three people died that day, Muddys driver and the man and woman driving the other car
And of good times?
"There were lots of good times We used to play this black club in St. Louis called the Moonlight Lounge. I remember the first time I went down there. We pulled up at the hotel and all these hookers on the corner started shouting 'Muddy's back ' And they'd hike-up their dresses. I remember at the gig Muddy played 'I Just Want To Make Love To You' and I had this chromatic solo. I dropped to my knees still playin'the harp and this woman yells-out from the audience, 'Don't stop now baby! My drawers are wet!"
Muddy would mesmerize the audience like a preacher. He'd walk all over the club singing and people'd shout out 'I hear you brother!' '....Tell the truth!' Tell it like it is. I loved those shows. After the gig, we came back to the hotel. You entered the hotel through a barbecue joint and then in the back there was a bar and a piano. Spann would play the piano all night. We would shoot dice and hang out with the girls. You had people sitting in like Albert King. It was just a great time. I had a great time."
How did you come to play the guitar?
"I already could play the guitar enough to where I could see what somebody was doin. I learned the guitar by watching Sammy Lawhorn and Muddy, I was blowin' the Harp but I was standing right next to Muddy and I was steady watching that slide, I caught on to what he was doing plus, every now and then, he'd give me a little pointer.
Spann was someone Oscher highly admired. As Oscher explained,
"He showed me how to play piano and how to come in and out with Muddy's vocals. What I learned from Spann was his deep blues feeling The funny thing about me and the piano is that I never really tried to copy any piano licks note for note like I did when I learned the harp. For me the piano is real intuitive and free. Spann would talk to me like this, 'Brother Paul, come on over here I want to show you something,' [and] he'd show me something simple on the piano but it was enough to get me going." More so, Oscher continued, "Blues was more than music for Otis Spann, it was a way of life. He really understood people that had hard times. He was one of them and his compassion and love for his audience really comes through in all his music."
Paul Oscher's been playing those low down blues for over four decades. Besides Muddy, Paul has performed and/or recorded with a who's who in the world of blues including Victoria Spivey, Otis Spann, Johnny Young, Buddy Guy, Louisiana Red, John Lee Hooker, Big Mama Thornton , T-bone Walker, Big Joe Turner, Jimmy Rogers, Johnny Copeland the list goes on.
His latest cd on electro-fi label"Alone with the blues" is now rated in the top ten on the living blues radio charts and is his fourth solo release. He has another one "Down in the Delta" on blues fidelity ready to be released in 2005. Paul has recently recorded with Francis Clay, Johnny Dyer, Rusty Zinn and Mark Hummel on "rollin fork revisited" for mountaintop and is featured as a guest artist along with Mickey Champion and Finis Tasby on the Mannish Boys cd on Delta Groove. He has recorded with Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Levon Helm on Hubert Sumlin's cd "About them shoes" to be released before the end of the year on the tone cool label.
In 2001, Paul Oscher moved from New York to L.A. with his wife playright and novelist Suzan -Lori Parks ( the first afro-american woman to win the Pulitzer prize in the drama category, for her play Topdog/underdog.2002)
Urged on by his wife, Paul is also trying his hand at writing down his experiences in the blues. Excerpts from his almost finished book "Alone with the Blues" have already been published in the campanion book to the PBS series Martin Scorcese presents the blues.
Paul Oscher has lived such a rich and adventurous life, yet he is humbled by those experiences. " I always try to thank the high power. The real gift of talent is not the ability to be able to play, it is the gift of the love you have for the music, that's what takes you over the hurdles.
For bio, vintage photos, road stories and soundclips and check out Paul's website WWW.PAULOSCHER.COM
For more great blues check out Paul's other album " Down in the Delta" available now only at cd baby