For proof of Plumeri's technical facility as a
guitarist and singer, one need only have a listen to his self-produced CD,
"The Bishop of the Blues." It opens with the shuffling
instrumental, "Get On With It," that is reminiscent of the great
Texas blues guitar players, people like T-Bone Walker and even Jimmie
Vaughan. Plumeri has an economy of style in his guitar playing. He may not play a lot of notes, and he's never overly-flashy, but he
certainly plays the right notes, ones that strike a chord of understanding
with his audiences.
The simple liner notes to Plumeri's debut CD indicate where this musician's head
is at: a lengthy description of the equipment he uses on various
tracks..."...a 1964 Fender Stratocaster, a 1965 Stratocaster, 1966
vintage "blackface" Fender Bassman [amp] modified by George
Allessandro through two Mesa Boogie single 12" speaker cabinets with
80 watt Celestian speakers. Fill-ins played through an early 1960s Ampeg Jet Amp.
Picture on the cover is a 1959 tweed Bassman amp." Clearly, this is
no ordinary bluesman playing the local shot-and-beer joints. One part technician, one part poet and one part guitar craftsman, Plumeri
has been playing his own style of blues in and around Trenton and eastern
Pennsylvania clubs for more than three decades.
He's been up and he's been down, but like any good bluesman, Plumeri perseveres. He remains optimistic about the future, like any good bluesman. Plumeri,
the third son of the well-known, longtime Trenton-area politician and
civil servant Sam Plumeri, began playing guitar at age seven. "When we were kids, we would play any place they would listen, from
my parents' living room when my brother would bring his friends
over, to church things, to battles-of-the-bands and backyard
parties," Plumeri recalls. "I played with a drummer back then who was like four feet tall and
very flashy, and his father was the type of guy who had him playing in
bars," he recalls. "As a seventh grader, I found myself going into dark Philadelphia
clubs opening for bands like The Cyrkle.
I got to know the in's and out's of show business pretty early."
While his drummer's father would shuttle them around to clubs, more than
occasionally, Sam Plumeri Sr. would drive Paul and his bandmates out to
the clubs. "My dad, as busy as he was with local politics, would make it a point
to bring me around to clubs when I was a kid," he recalls. Plumeri's uncle was a jazz booking agent and manager who worked with
saxophonist "Red" Prysock and his brother, vocalist Arthur
Prysock, organist Richard "Groove" Holmes and drummers Gene
Krupa and Buddy Rich. Plumeri has early memories of sitting three feet from Prysock and Grant
Green in the Fantasy Lounge in Trenton on Sunday afternoons. He recalls how thrilled he was to get up and play guitar alongside Hammond
B-3 organist "Groove" Holmes as a young teen.
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.
"You're not going to become a multi-millionaire in this
business," he says, "but, you'll be doing your thing."
"As long as you're alive, there's hope, and it all comes down to
r e s s & n e w s
pictures and posters HERE
Download a copy
of Paul's bio in MS Word format
Blues Hall of Fame
Paul Plumeri was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2013.
HERE is a nice
bio/article about Paul that appeared prior to his New Year's Eve
The Times / NJ.com article
HERE is a nice article by Lisa Rich prior to Paul's
show at The Record Collector in Bordentown NJ, June 2012.
PHANTOM PUNCH MOVIE
Two Paul Plumeri Blues
Band songs, written by
Vinyard Blues and
No Justice (from the
Bishop of the Blues
CD) are on the soundtrack of
the new Ving Rhames
movie Phantom Punch.
Robert Townsend directed
this film about the life
of boxer Sonny Liston.
Phantom Punch on IMDB
Here for an August 2006 article about Paul's son
Paul Jr. and his band Isyou in The Trentonian's GO entertainment magazine.
Here for a June 2006 cover story about Paul in The Trentonian's GO entertainment magazine.
Paul was joined
onstage at a show in Seattle, Washington in January, 2006 by
Roger Fisher, lead guitarist and founding member of Heart. In
his response to a thank you note Paul sent him, Roger
replied: "Thanks, Paul... I was very impressed with your
fluidity, breadth of vocabulary and freedom of expression. So
many sweet, real-deal blues chops! Just loved it!. I’d love to
sit in again sometime – please keep me in mind when you return.
Have fun. Rog"
Paul's picture was
featured in an article about The Gypsy Bar at The Borgata in
Atlantic City. <click
Curt Yeske of The
Times of Trenton included Paul in a nice write up for the 2002
Trenton Jazz Festival. <click
The Paul Plumeri
Blues Band will be featured in a television commercial for
H&H Appliance, check out some behind the scenes pics. <click
The Princeton Packet
did a nice write-up about the "Live In Seattle" CD
Tom Yanno from Musicians Realm interviewed Paul
in 2001 following the release of "Live In Seattle" ,
read it: <
Here to read the article about Paul from a recent issue
of Vintage Guitar Magazine.