Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page
Immersed in the Blues while growing up, Chicago native Paul Speidel has been a recognized name on the Boston music scene for over nineteen years. Paul has earned a reputation as a versatile and energetic guitarist who has free-lanced extensively, in addition to fronting Blues and Jazz groups under his own name. An early background in music, combined with years of experience as a working player have earned Paul the opportunity to share the stage with such musical luminaries as Jay Geils (J. Geils Band), Duke Robillard (Roomful of Blues, Fabulous Thunderbirds), Patti Page, James Montgomery, Taylor Made, Howard Alden and many others. Since 1990, Paulís appearances as headliner and sideman include such well-known Boston area venues as Johnny Dís, Harperís Ferry, Ryles, the Regent Theater, The Bull Run, The Rack, The Loft at Tommy Doyles (the original House of Blues), Acton Jazz Cafť, Plough and Stars, the Cantab and many, many others. Paul has also appeared in clubs and concert performances throughout the New England, Chicago, and Denver regions.
Paul performs most often fronting his own group, the Paul Speidel Band, mixing a variety of Blues-based styles from R&B to Swing, infused with a good dose of Funk and Rock & Roll. The Boston Blues Society recognized them in the 2006 Boston Blues Challenge, where they were chosen for the Semi-Finals, and then again in 2008, where they were Finalists in the Blues Challenge. The renowned Downbeat Magazine acknowledged the Bandís 2005 live release ďGuitar Bass DrumsĒ with a strong three-star review. With a total of six CDs to their credit, their music is widely available on popular services like iTunes and Rhapsody. In addition to writing all original material for his Band, Paulís award-winning compositions have been used in soundtracks for industry and training videos.
The foundation of Paulís guitar playing has its roots in the sound of Electric Blues, which was literally in the air in Chicago on the rotation of all the radio stations during his formative years. Paulís mother, a Classically-trained pianist who loved playing Gospel hymns, would forbid Rock & Roll radio when he was a child, so he would sneak it while she was at choir rehearsal at the church where Paulís father was the pastor! Following two years of failed clarinet lessons, Paul eventually switched over to guitar and started his first band at the age of 12. Set against the background of early 70ís Blues-Rock, Hendrix, Page and Clapton pointed the way to other earlier sources of Blues, and, eventually through Miles Davis, to Jazz. Paulís two earliest influences were local legends Son Seals, whose raw, dry and biting guitar stuck in Paulís ear and became a major influence on his guitar-playing, and West Side hero Lonnie Brooks, who performed at his high school.
Though cutting his teeth on the Blues in his hometown of Chicago, Paul had already gained experience in a variety of styles ranging from Rock to Blues and Jazz by the time he graduated high school and left home to start playing gigs. He received formal musical training at Augustana College in Illinois, where he supported himself performing and teaching privately while getting his B.A. He then continued his studies at the University of Northern Colorado, where he was a Teaching Assistant in the award-winning Jazz Studies Department. While earning a Master of Music degree in Theory and Composition, Paul freelanced playing commercial music, including a three-year stint playing Tenor Banjo in a Dixieland Band!
ďPlease come to BostonĒ the song goes, and like so many stories, Paul packed his earthly belongings in a car and left town to ďchase a dameĒ. Arriving in the Boston area in 1990, Paul began teaching Blues and Jazz in the local school system within a year. While continuing to teach, Paul began working as a studio producer and live sound engineer for local singer-songwriters including Dar Williams and Jim Infantino (Jimís Big Ego). Freelance work followed as Paul got better known in the region and, one night early in 1994, the Paul Speidel Band was born when a Jazz gig went sideways. It was at a club where Paul was playing with a straight-ahead Jazz quartet, and on the first of two nights booked, things looked rough when the Band noticed there were only two beers on tapóbrands usually served by the can and consumed by the case. Needless to say, the Jazz show didnít go over well, and with a little quick thinking, the bandleader stuck Paul out front on the second night, and they played Blues all night long, thus surviving to play another day!
In November of 1994, Paul founded and hosted the Sunday Night Blues Jam Sessions in Newton, attracting top amateurs and professionals to the informal setting. As the reputation of the Blues Jam grew over time, many major area names started showing up, including Shirley Lewis, BBQ Bob, Lowdown Towne, Gerry Beaudoin, and members of The Fools, among others. The shows grew into larger and larger events and eventually became the Blues Showcase in Newton, which drew bigger and bigger names to come as featured guests. Over the next several years, Paul performed with major local and national talent such as James Montgomery, Paul Rishell and Annie Raines, Toni Lynn Washington, Dave Maxwell (Freddie King), Chris "Stovall" Brown, Michelle Willson and many other talented artists.
During this time, the Paul Speidel Band continued to "pay their dues" by playing other well-known clubs and corner Blues bars alike, firmly establishing their name and reputation among fellow musicians and the local media ó this while the success of the Sunday Night Jam and Showcase Series allowed them to break into bigger venues and play more widely throughout the greater Boston Metro area. The Band was from the start a power trio, though often appearing with guest musicians at shows and private events, like saxophonists Cercie Miller and "Sax" Gordon, and Alizon Lissance (The Lovedogs) on keyboards. Paul has also appeared many times in Solo and Duo settings.
The 90's were a time when the Blues was strong, and Stevie Ray Vaughan still cast a long shadow over every regional music scene. During this time, Paul and his group worked out their electric band sound, finding their voice as an instrumental power trio. It began with several years of mastering the well-known Blues standards and, on many of the same shows, throwing in experimental, joined-at-the-hip Jazz-based group improvisation. As the Swing craze hit in the late '90s, they explored Blues styles with more of a Swing foundation. The group was already shifting towards a lighter instrumental style, closer to their Jazz influences, though they never got too far away from funkier R&B rhythms and a Latin groove here and there. By the early 2000's, the Paul Speidel Band's earlier heavy, raw Blues sound was tempered by their excursions into Jazz territories and melded with in-your-face Funk/Rock grooves; their style continued to develop rapidly with every performance.
After playing hundreds and hundreds of shows over a ten-year period, a forward-looking musical vision had evolved, drawing on the Band's various stylistic roots and artistic influences. Their musical direction ultimately became clear and, in 2004, they finally released their eponymous debut recording. "The Paul Speidel Band" defined the group as an instrumental, Blues-based electric power trio, playing music with a Rock & Roll attitude, but a unique Jazz-minded approach to group interaction. The CD garnered positive reviews in both the local and national print and web-based media, and is still the Band's top-selling recording. From the press release:
"We had been recording shows, rehearsing, gigging and playing on
other projects The Whole time. Paul was writing the tunes and began the
final arrangements a full five years before the CD was released.
Material which would eventually appear on our other CDs, too, evolved
from ideas kicked around going back to the beginning of the Band's
history. Paul had started to introduce original tunes and arrangements
on stage going back ten years, and the Band refined the concept and
sound of many of the songs through repeated live performance."
The music of the Paul Speidel Band has caught the ear of local radio, including recent spins on stations such as WZLX, WBRS, WMBR, WMFO and WICN, as well Boston's own local NPR affiliate. Their music has also been featured as the theme music to internet radio stations, and can be regularly heard on Blues shows on public and commercial radio programming across the country.
Across two decades as a working musician, Paul Speidel has had the privilege to perform with many talented artists, including Jon McAuliffe (Warner Bros., United Artists) George Leh, Terry Cooke (Stan Kenton, Woody Herman), Bruce Gerz (Dave Brubeck, Maynard Ferguson), John Lockwood (The Fringe), Lisa Marie, K.D. Bell, Weepin' Willie, Dennis Brennan, Danny Daniels and many, many others. He recently opened for Gibson Signature Artist, Johnny A. Additionally, the roster of members of the Paul Speidel Band reads like a New England-area who's who of in-demand players. On top of their expert backing of Paul, they have lent their considerable talent to the likes of Ronnie Earl, Jay Geils, the Lovedogs, the Radio Kings, Duke Robillard, Dave Maxwell, the Heavy Metal Horns, Crystal Ship and many other major acts.
Hard-driving, high-energy shows and boundary-stretching recordings with a contemporary sound characterize Paul Speidel's appeal as one of the most relevant, creative voices on the music scene today. Boston-area DJ and Program Director Dana Marshall put it best: "Paul Speidel's guitar playing is impressive. He manages to mix Blues and Jazz and Funk naturally and effortlessly. The Band is tight and the songs are strong. If you haven't seen Paul, you're missing out on something special right here in Boston!"