Biography


Paul James is one of the most exciting and energetic Toronto-based Canadian musicians – past, present and future.

Paul James has received many music awards during his long career in the music business. He is winner of a Juno Award, multiple Toronto Music Awards,‘The Maple Blues (Lifetime Achievement Award for Blues Music in Canada), the London Fire Hall Lifetime Achievement Award, and he has many more music awards to grace his mantle. However, winning the respect of his musical peers always rated more highly than winning any awards for Paul.

Bo Diddley asked Paul to open his show and to back him up over 100 times between the years 1973 and 2007. Paul co-wrote a song with Bo, recorded with him and helped him to create the whole soundtrack for the movie, ‘Diary of a Sinner’. Bo Diddley played on Paul’s first vinyl album,’ Almost Crazy’, and wrote the liner notes for his second album, ‘The Paul James Band’. In 1986 Bo wrote: “From the beginning of his young career, I predicted that Paul James would be a big star one day and that time is now! The man is a true professional and dynamic! Listening to Paul James is listening to the building of a new thing, and he is a new thing. Paul James is a great musician, He’s a great tribute to Rock’n’Roll.”

Bob Dylan sat in with Paul’s band, and came to see Paul perform on numerous occasions. In 1990, Dylan invited Paul James to play an acoustic set to open his show at Canada’s Wonderland. Dylan further invited Paul to sit in with his band many times in Toronto, London, Oshawa and Buffalo. In 1986, when they first met, Dylan advised Paul that if he would move to L.A. and just do what he does in Toronto there, he would make it big for sure. Unfortunately, Paul had to keep his home base in Toronto for family reasons.

In 1982, Willy DeVille asked Paul to join his New York based band, Mink DeVille. Paul stayed in New York living in Willy’s apartment in Greenwich Village for about a month while learning all the Mink DeVille material for an upcoming twelve country world tour. Paul also recorded with Mink DeVille while he was in New York before the tour. There is a Great DVD documenting that tour titled ‘Mink DeVille Live at Montreux 1982’.

Paul played lead and rhythm guitar for New York Bluesman John Hammond. They played about 100 nights together over a thirty year period, mostly in Toronto and also in Ottawa, London, Montreal and Edmonton. Paul played on one of Hammond’s albums, ‘Nobody But You’ and Hammond played on two of Paul’s albums,’Acoustic Blues’ and Rockin’ the Blues’.

Paul has played guitar for Texas guitar great Lightning Hopkins, and piano greats Sunnyland Slim, Johnny Johnson, and Dr, John.

Paul James was a trailblazer for the independent music scene in Canada, as he was an independent recording artist long before it was popular to be one. He released his first vinyl 45 RPM original single, ‘Joint Out Back’ in 1973, on his own label Lick’n’Stick Records. Paul proved he could be successful as an Indie artist and many others followed his lead thereafter. He probably was the first independent recording artist to play all ten provinces in Canada, traveling in his van with his band.

Paul was a Canadian Blues Crusader! He played the Blues in bars since 1968 when it was not nearly as popular as it is now and long before there were any ‘Blues Societies’ or ‘Blues Awards in Canada.’ Paul James kept the Blues flame burning in Toronto even through the late 1970s when the disco era caused so many live bands to give up.

Currently, Paul James is a Canadian cultural icon. He is a veteran entertainer who has seen all that this crazy music business has to offer. His talents as a guitarist, vocalist, band leader, stage acrobat, producer, songwriter, trailblazer, and owner of his own Indie record label have all allowed Paul to perform and produce the music he loves for close to five decades. Paul is not over the hill yet – in fact, he is still going up it!

Paul James is a real musician’s musician. He has been constantly surrounded by the world’s stage of big time players, such as Mink DeVille, Bo Diddley, Bob Dylan, John Hammond, Dr. John, Spencer Davis, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Jeff Healey, Honeyboy Edwards, Johnny Johnson, Jack Scott, and Sunnyland Slim, just to name a few.


What Do The Critics Say:
"He's generally acknowledged as one of Canada's finest R&B guitarists and has played with the greats of the genre. Bo Diddley, John Hammond, Lightnin' Hopkins, he's burned up riffs with them all. When the inimitable Willy Deville was putting together a band for his '83 European tour, he scoured North America for the most authentic R&B axeman to be found and came up with Paul James."

- Lenny Stoute (Music Express)

"Fighting against the trends toward "commercialized" music over the past few years, the Toronto musician has hung onto his ideals to become one of the hottest rockabilly sensations in Canada."

- Mark Homes (Acton)

"When a person places music and not fame, at the center of their driving passion, never changing directions but keeping true to their conviction, this is the mark of a true legend. This is Paul James."

- Karla Ingleton (Musicologist)

"Paul James is an extraordinary singer/guitarist who captures the excitement of 50's rock, and shapes it into a vital sound for the 80's"

- Music Magazine

"He's a professional who believes in doing something right consistently"

- James Marck (NOW)

"Unlike most of the revivalist, James plays revved up rock like it had never goine out of vogue, creating originals as fresh in 1986 as those first strains out of Sam Phillips Sun Studios 30 years ago."

- Sandy MacDonald (Halifax Weekend Look)

"Refreshingly free from poses and pretentions, Paul James is a genuine, authentic rock & roller, a first rate singer, writer, performer - traditional in the very sense of the work."

- Canadian Musician (David Hazen, Toronto)

"He has all the tools for stardom."

- Peter Goddard (Toronto Star)

"For fans of early rock 'n roll, who like honky tonk piano and a touch of the blues, the first album from Toronto-based Paul James Band represents the best of its kind so far this year."

- Peter Martin (RPM)

"Londoners just can't seem to get enough of Toronto singer / guitarist Paul James. James doesn't use gimmicks. He keeps things simple. His uncompromising brand of music encompasses old rock & roll, R& B, and blues tunes, yet he's not a nostalgia show. James makes 30-year-old- tunes sound as fresh as his back-to-roots originals."

- Roman Pawlyshyn (London Free Press)

"Feeling jaded with the new-fangled synthetic and synthesized rock but tired of the golden mouldy oldies? Toronto-based Paul James Band is the answer. The music and lyrics are mostly brand new, but the rhythm-and-blues musical style is back in the middle 50's when rock was an infant crying for recognition."

- Paul Bennett (Victoria B.C. Times)

"A testament to James' unbounded good humor, his enthusiasm for roots rock and to his command of the slide guitar - Paul's album Almost Crazy works."

- Greg Quill (Toronto Star)

"In the spirit of bo Diddley and Chuck Berry comes Torontoian Paul James, Canada's answer to George Thorogood."

- The Sunshiner (Edmonton)

"The Rock of ages stands firm in Paul. Paul James is a keeper of the flame, one of the town's most steadfast guardians of the rock of ages."

- Val Cleary (Toronto Star)

"Paul James has recently released the album "Almost Crazy". It's a set that proves two things, initially, it shows that there's still room in the major dominated market for an independent label and secondly it proves Paul James has the talent to break big."

- Barry Sweeney (Edmonton)

GLOBE & MAIL
Friday, March 19, 1999
ALEXANDRA GILL

Sometimes it does pay to play the clown. Just ask Toronto bluesman Paul James. Way back when, in 1986, James was hamming it up in his trademark style at a Nag's Head North gig. Wearing a crazy, ruffled, purple tuxedo shirt, James boogied over to the
bar. He was playing with one hand and drinking a beer with the other when, lo and behold, Bob Dylan jumped up right in front of him. Yes, that Bob Dylan. The legendary folk-rock star was impressed. James, a Dylan fan since he "first heard him," thought he was hallucinating. Dylan joined him on stage. "Just introduce me as the hitchhiker from Vancouver," he told James.

A few weeks ago, Dylan returned the favour -- summoning James to a concert at Buffalo's Midland Arena. Near the end of the show, Dylan announced that he had a friend in the audience. Would Paul James care to join him on stage?

"Uh, oh," James recalls saying to himself. "That's me." Together they performed Highway 61 and Like a Rolling Stone, then came back for an encore of Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat and Buddy Holly's Not Fade Away. After the show, Dylan told James he'd like to give him a call when he's recording his next album.

"Well, do it," said James, who's still walking around in a daze after his "dream come true." Kind of makes it hard, one would imagine, to go back to the dingy barroom circuit.

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