Blues legend emphasizes music over message

Long recognized as one of America’s best country-blues fingerpickers and a scholar of acoustic blues, Paul Geremia has a very clear memory of when music first captured his attention.

“My father had an old jazz recording of Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five, which was one of my favorite records when I was a teenager,” Geremia said. “It was the horn solo on ‘St. Louis Blues’ and that was the first time I knowingly got into a blues song.”

BACKGROUND
Geremia, whose first instrument was the harmonica, said he has found that in topical or message songs, “sometimes the message becomes more important than the music, and the music suffers as a result of the importance of the message. But if it’s an important message, it’s worth it.”

He soon left college and hit the road permanently. He found paying gigs in coffeehouses and other venues, and appeared as an opening act for early blues legends such as:
” Howlin’ Wolf,
” Babe Stovall,
” Yank Rachel,
” Son House,
” and Skip James.

CONTEMPORARIES
John Hammond, an esteemed performer himself, has been quoted in interviews saying that he would drive a thousand miles to see Geremia perform.

“Paul is possibly the greatest living performer of the East Coast and Texas fingerpicking and slide styles, six and 12 strings,” Hammond once said. “When Paul plays Leadbelly, you can close your eyes and swear that it’s Leadbelly himself.” “C.G. Niebank

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