TGS PLAYER SPOTLIGHT - TJ NIX & PAUL PLUMERI


Nix and Plumeri Spotlight


"Got My Dickies On" from their LP Blues In Disguise
TGS Spotlight Players from June 9, 2011

PAUL PLUMERI: The Bishop of the Blues


When you’ve been playing guitar and singing the blues as long as Paul Plumeri, you learn to do things your own way. Naturally, since he does things his own way, Plumeri’s guitar playing and singing styles are distinctive.


In a blues bar setting, where he’s often called upon to play tunes that have been done to death — a situation most blues musicians can relate to — Plumeri (pronounced plum'-er-rye) takes the standard, crowd-pleasing, familiar blue’s songs, items like “Sweet Little Angel”, “The Thrill Is Gone,” and “Red House” and makes these tunes completely his own. “Sweet Little Angel” becomes a medley of B.B. King tunes, while T-Bone Walker’s “T-Bone Shuffle” takes on a life of its own through Plumeri’s creative arrangement of the tune.


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 Jimmy 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.


KNOW THY TOOLS


The simple liner notes to Plumeri’s 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 “blackfaced” Fender Bassman (amp) modified by George Allessandro through two Mesa Boogie single 12" speaker cabinets with 80 watt Celestion 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 four decades. He’s been up and he’s been down, but like any good bluesman, Plumeri — still young by blues standards — 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 Circle. I got to know the in’s and out’s of show business pretty early.”


The real musician's friends


While his drummer’s father would shuttle them around to clubs, more than occasionally Sam Plumeri, Sr. would drive Paul and his band mates 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 Richard “Groove” Holmes as a young teen.


GBS Time


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 and man-about-town George Luthre ("L-u-t-h-r-e, spell it right or we'll send it back") Bannister played a role in sparking Plumeri lifelong interest, in blues and classic R&B.


“His opening song would be Bill Doggett’s “Honky Tonic”, 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 1970’s. 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.


BRUSHES WITH GREATNESS


Through the early and mid 1970’s, 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, often more than $1,000 a week, 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.


One original bishop


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 1960’s for one of these cellar jams which ware 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 four 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 1970’s and early 1990’s, 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 three 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 that.”


TJ NIX



• A singer, songwriter, harmonica player and front man, TJ Nix started playing harmonica in his musical family at age 5, building a repertoire of many classic songs by age 10.


• By the age of 13, he wrote and arranged his first original song, "The Snapper Blues", which quite a few years later ( in the late 80's), he recorded with the great Blues guitarist Joe Zook.


• In the early 80's, TJ attended the Trenton Conservatory of Music where he studied under the renowned vocal coach Theresa Loma.


• Tom also enjoyed many years as a studio musician in local and New York studios, and as a vocalist for hire in professional working acts.


• He formed Nix and the Side Kixx and recorded 2 LP’s in the 80’s and 90’s.


• The band shared the bill with a large variety of national touring acts, including Jack Bruce, Robin Trower, Foghat, Humble Pie and Edgar Winter.


• The band performed in a many of the region’s most popular venues, including: CBGB New York, Philadelphia’s Cabarets, The Stone Pony, and Trenton’s legendary City Gardens.


• TJ was a writer for the Philadelphia Out On the Town Entertainment news guide in the 90's, with a byline as the Trenton Connection. There, he helped build awareness of local talent from NJ.


• Tom formed TJ Nix Productions, a concert promotions agency, in the 90's. He then went on to book nationals acts into some of the most popular venues in and around New Jersey.


From TJ:


My influence as a harmonica player and singer have to start with my father Fred Nix, who put a Marine Band in my hand at age 5. I was amazed at the way he played every harmonica "Harmonicat-style". He played in every octave on some of the strangest looking harmonicas I've ever seen. When I was around 11 years old I discovered Muddy Waters, Little Walter, and James Cotton. That's why my vocals and harmonica playing have a blues-based root. Soon after, I stumbled upon John Mayall and the song Room to Move. I've written many songs over the years I can thank John for. "Simply find a good groove and stick with it."


Things really changed when I heard the J Geils Band's Full House LP. I loved the way Magic Dick would attack solos. I folded that aggressive approach into my style. Thanks Richard!


Lee, Sugar & Jason: influences past and present


It wasn't till I was a bit older when the melodic styling's of Lee Oskar grabbed me. If you listen to those parts of the songs I've written that sound airy and soul-filled, that's me channeling Lee. I can really only thank one player for the speed I have today and that's the incredible Sugar Blue. Wow! is all I can say. That brings me to present day, when I found (again) that you're never too old to learn some new tricks. A young harp player out of Nashville (originally from Portland, Maine), Jason Ricci pointed me in the right direction, with the use of modern equipment, to experiment and expand the possibilities of tones you can create. Thanks for your online technical advice, Jason.


TJ'S GEAR


Harps: Hohner - Lee Oskar - Harrison Harmonicas' B-Radical - Seydel
Harp Gear Amplifiers
Blows Me Away Productions (Ultimate Series Microphones)
John Kinder's Anti-Feedback Plus
Bergantino Audio Systems speaker Cabinets
PedalTrain (Pro Stage Gear)


Blues In Disguise


I had 2 LP's in the late 80's and early 90's with Nix & the Side Kixx. I always managed to get at least one Blues song on our records. After the band split up I vowed if I were to perform or record again it would be following my passion to play blues-based music with players who have a similar respect for this style of music.


Over the past 15 years I have been writing songs in this vein, and working on my harmonica skills. I realized it would take 2 lifetimes to learn everything, so I decided it was time to get on with it. Which, by the way, is the title of one of Paul Plumeri's signature songs.


First, a little history about how I met Paul. 40 years ago I heard this fantastic music coming from the other side of our house. When I walked in the room, my father was playing an acoustic guitar and a harmonica, and Paul with one of his many Classic Guitars, laying down some smooth blues. This scene came about because Paul and my older brothers were good friends, and we all shared the same passion for great music.


After that day Paul would show up around the Nix family dinner table from time to time. I have been following Paul's career ever since. We performed together at outdoor functions the summer of 2009.


My technical skills had advanced to where I could share the stage with the great Bishop of the Blues, as a partner. With the help of my good friend Nick Hutton (acoustic guitar) and a commitment from Paul, I realized it was time to dust off the songs I had compiled, break out the old harps, tune up the vocal chords and make another run at it.


Rock-in' the blues


November 2009 we started getting the songs together for the CD. First just Paul and I worked on blending our styles together. This is first heard on two songs we wrote and recorded together, called Sanctified and You Got To Be Civil. Then we blended the music Nick and I had been working on, and Paul helped take it to another level. We folded in Jerry Monk on bass, and Mike White on drums from the Paul Plumeri Blues Trio. There was just one more thing to get the sound we were after: the blending of harmonica and hot guitar rhythms with a horn section. That's when we layered in the hot sounds of Angelo DiBraccio on alto and tenor saxophones.


We were in Tom Reock’s Squirrel Ranch Studio on and off from January to May. A couple days a week and the project got all of its finishing touches.


The reviews are coming in, and everyone who has heard the recording thinks it sounds great.


The CD is available for sale at our shows, directly from us here online, and you can also order it through Amazon, iTunes, Rhapsody, Napster, or your favorite online music merchant right now.


Like our early reviews are saying, this is not your average Blues band. We’ve actually created a new sound ... " BLUES IN DISGUISE".


Visit Paul Plumeri's website at paulplumeri.com
Visit TJ Nix's website at bluesindisguise.com


The Guitar Show Disclaimer: The bios and photos of artists featured in the TGS Player Spotlight are supplied by the artist or their representatives. We will do no editing except for size and censoring for improper language (after all, we're a family show). Please visit the artist's website for more information and where to buy their music.



GO BACK TO THE PLAYER SPOTLIGHT MAIN PAGE