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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

San Jose - Paul Plumeri

Plumeri got hooked on the blues about a year after he began playing guitar, when he discovered blues on the radio in Trenton. Longtime Trenton-area DJ George Bannister played a role in sparking Plumeri's lifelong interest in blues and classic R&B. "His opening song would be Bill Doggett's 'Honky Tonk,' and from there I was hooked. He'd play Sam & Dave, B.B. King and he'd play all the black instrumentals. I heard it and was enamored with it." After leading a succession of blues and rock bands through high school, he attended Mercer County Community College in the early 1970s.

At that time, the Trenton-area and New Jersey's clubs scene was still flourishing. Plumeri studied business but later dropped out. The monetary pressures were simply too great: he recalls making upwards of $1,000 a week in Garden State and Philadelphia nightclubs in those days. Through the early and mid-1970s, Plumeri founded and led a band called Hoochie Cooch [taken from the Muddy Waters' song, "Hoochie Coochie Man"] and played in that band until 1976, when he joined keyboardist Duke Williams in his band, The Extremes. The band was later signed to Capricorn Records, home of the Allman Brothers, Delaney and Bonnie and countless other Southern roots-rock acts. With Williams and the Extremes, he toured the East Coast and most of Canada from 1976 until the end of 1980.

The money was good, but the band burnt itself out by the end of 1980. The first incarnation of the Paul Plumeri Blues Band made its debut on a Sunday night in 1982 at a nightclub in Trenton, the night Plumeri's son was born. With a new addition to his family, a mortgage to pay, and the need for health insurance, he decided to change gears. He worked as a housing inspector for the city of Trenton. He still played blues at night and on weekends, as he does today.

For guitar players, everything is about tone, and Plumeri figures he started developing his own tone, and style, when he was still in high school. "Somebody dug out tapes of me from the late 1960s from one of these cellar jams which were happening all the time, and this guy said, 'You know Paul, you can listen to that now and you can still tell it's you.' But my whole style developed because I was not a note-for-note copier. At the time, it was very frustrating, 'cause I wanted to play the whole solo on 'Crossroads' exactly as it was played. "I would stylize it, I could sound like the player somewhat, but just couldn't do the note-for-note thing. That turned out to be my biggest asset, 'cause I didn't rely on that to be my vocabulary. I absorbed these people," he says, referring to guitar 'gods' like Eric Clapton and Duane Allman, "but I would not mimic them to the ' T ' ," he adds.

Plumeri has been associated with the blues in the Garden State and greater Philadelphia for more than three decades, and frankly, it's an affiliation he's not willing to let go of. He never compromised his artistry for the sake of commerce, in other words, when suddenly, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, blues fell out of fashion for awhile. That is, until Stevie Ray Vaughan came along and brought everyone back to their roots. "I wasn't willing to leave my association of being a blues musician. I never became associated with some other trendy thing, I did not play top 40 music." Now, nearly two decades after the formation of the Paul Plumeri Blues Band, he presses on, and like any good bluesman, he's ready to seize the right opportunity, but not necessarily the first opportunity.

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