Friday, March 09, 2007
We Have Lost Paul deLay
I missed the news on Wednesday. Paul deLay was one of the greatest harmonica players in the world, and a terrific vocalist, songwriter and composer. His energy and passion lit up every show he played. He was a mountain of a man, and he got sick and died in a few days - undiagnosed leukemia. He played two long sets on Saturday night, for crying out loud!
I have Paul's CD's, I heard him play live out in Portland, I spoke to him and told him how much I admired his artistry. He was one of my musical heroes. He lived an epic life.
Here is the obit from the Oregonian. This one hurts, people.
From The Oregonian
Paul deLay, local blues legend, dies
Posted by John Foyston March 07, 2007 14:01PM
Paul deLay, the larger-than-life Portland bluesman who redefined the harmonica and its musical potential, died this morning at Providence Portland Medical Center from end-stage leukemia diagnosed just days before. He was 55.
"He was the most inventive harmonica player in the history of the planet," says John Mazzocco, who played bass with deLay for several years in the 1990s. "He was gifted -- he had incredible tone, but more important, he could look at things differently than any other harmonica player. He was the best in the world."
"He was the best harmonica player in the blues world," says bassist Jimmy Lloyd Rea, from Baker City. "His big body -- mind, heart and soul -- was in every note he ever played."
DeLay recorded a dozen albums in his four-decade career, won several music awards and was nominated for a W.C. Handy Award. He and his band toured constantly, and his last show was just last Saturday -- a benefit show at Klamath Fall's Ross Ragland Theater.
"What amazes me is the energy he brought to the show," says guitarist Pete Dammann, who played in deLay's
bands for the past two decades. "He wasn't pirouetting onstage, but he was joking and yakking with the crowd, and he played hard. We did two long sets, and nobody had any idea anything like this was going on."
Neither did deLay. After that show, Dammann says, deLay felt under the weather, presumably from bronchitis he'd suffered on the band's recent jaunt to Mexico for several benefit shows. But doctors found that deLay was suffering from leukemia so advanced that his organs began shutting down and he lapsed into a coma from which he apparently never recovered.
Paul Joseph deLay was born Jan. 31, 1952 in Portland, where he lived all his life. In the early 1970, he and then-drummer Lloyd Jones and guitarist Jim Mesi formed an electric blues band called Brown Sugar and played to eager crowds up and down the West Coast. They laid the foundation for Portland's reputation as one of the country's great blues towns.
Nineteen seventy-six saw the formation of the Paul deLay Blues Band, which toured hard for more than a decade. At the same time, deLay suffered from alcohol and cocaine problems. In January of 1990, deLay was busted for cocaine trafficking and eventually served time in the federal prison in Sheridan. But before that sentence, deLay cleaned up and started writing
and recording his own music with a new band.
While deLay was in prison, his band played on as the No Delay Band, and it was waiting when he got out. They went on to record ground-breaking albums such as "Ocean of Tears" and "Nice and Strong," and Evidence Records released his two post-bust albums -- evidence that whoever said there are no second acts to American lives had never heard of Paul deLay.