Henry Paul of The Outlaws by Todd Stevens.
For this interview, I got to bullshit with Henry Paul, the founding member of the southern rock group The Outlaws. We were sitting in a room backstage at Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley, Massachusetts about 2 hours before the concert. Henry has just returned from a vacation in Italy with his wife and hasn’t slept in days but claims he’ll get some sleep after tonight’s show. It’s 5:30 pm on November 9, 2016.
Todd: Henry, Where’s your hometown? And how old are you?
Henry: I’m 67. I was born in upstate New York on the Hudson River in a little town called Kingston. I moved to Florida in the late 50s. In ‘57, I moved to Lakeland. I graduated from high school in Tampa in ’67 and The Outlaws were formed in Tampa in ‘72.
Todd: Do you have any childhood memories that you’d like to share with us?
Henry: Well, my granddad had a really big sweet corn farm and my dad worked with my grandfather and, you know, was what you call the faithful son. The farm was huge this thousand acres of sweet corn and woods, barns. I was working on a farm when I was in junior high. Summers in junior high and high school was great fun. Those are great memories. I moved to Florida in ‘57 -was fun – I was in the third grade then there was, like, orange groves and crazy stuff like that that I thought was really intriguing. There were also the pit mines. They dug for phosphate – for fertilizer – right in the open pit mines and it was like for a young boy great fun to go over to those pits. They were dangerous. There were big, huge mountains, literally mountains of dirt, deep holes full of water. I mean, 40,60,80 feet deep, but we used to go with there and play. You know, being a kid was fun to me. The Outlaws, that was a big deal, you know, we got the band started, we knocked around Tampa for a long time and when we got our first record deal, that was like our goal, that was our dream and it was then we realized that it was from then on, that was just that was forty five years ago.
Todd: When did you start playing an instrument?
Henry: I bought a guitar in the summer of the ninth grade going into tenth. So I must’ve been about probably fourteen or fifteen. Fourteen. Cheap! It was like 8 or 10 bucks, bought it in the hockshop. My stepbrother knew how to play. He taught me some chords and I just bought some songbooks and learned all the songs that I heard on the radio that I liked.
Todd: Awesome! What kinds of guitars do you use?
Henry: Well, I’m more of an acoustic guitar player. I got a really nice collection of acoustic guitars. Not a lot but quite a few. I play Gretsch White Falcon with the Outlaws, an electric guitar. I play Gibson Jumbos, a Big J, two Hunters. I have a black one out here and a red one. I love the both of them. A little bit different but they’re both really good. But you know, I’ve got a couple of really nice Martins and a number of Gibson guitars, Gurian and Gibson electrics that I’ve played for years in the Outlaws in the 70s. Just kind of an eclectic collection of guitars. I don’t think I have more than 15, maybe 20 or so, but the ones I have I really like.
Todd: How did the Outlaws come together?
Henry: Well, I was living in New York, like on my own. I moved out of Florida, went back up to New York but moved to the city in Greenwich Village, had an apartment, was playing coffeehouses. The A & R director from Columbia stumbled on me and really liked me and brought me up to cut some demos. I wanted to form a band so through some mutual musical characters, I put a group together in The Village and we went back down to Tampa and played a big concert and it was a big deal. We got over really good. A few of the guys in that band got kind of homesick so we met Monte. Monte (Monte Yoho) was actually introduced to me early and then he introduced me to Frank (Frank O’Keefe), who was the bass player. So that was me, Monte and Frank just three of the five original members of the band, Hughie (Hughie Thomasson) was up in New York playing with somebody. He came home. And the guitar player in my band was getting homesick and he’s split back to where he came from so we got Hughie. Now have about four of the five originals and it was probably more than a year later Billy Jones was out of Colorado came back but we just played the bars of Tampa, Cocoa Beach, wherever we could, you know. Cocoa Beach was a real surf kind of surfer scene. So a lot of kids there, a big music scene in Tampa. It was huge. So that’s kind of how we got started.
Todd: Sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. Do you have any experiences that you’d like to share with us? You can say whatever you want.
Henry: Drugs, I know about them but that wasn’t my thing. Girls were kind of more of an interest to me. You know, when you’re young I think it’s not for everyone but for most of us, I think it’s predisposition from the standpoint of interest in girls because you are trying to figure it out and figure out how to do it; how to go about trying to get them to do it. And the drug thing was you know back in the 60s, it was LSD and marijuana was very illegal and you know when you got arrested for stuff like that it was a serious offense, it was a huge deal back then. Not so big anymore as much. But you know cocaine became popular. I was never much a fan of that. I just had no use for it. But I don’t do any of that stuff. I walked away from that a long time ago. I’m busy, I don’t have time for that kind of bullshit. I’m married and happily married, and have a family and you know I kind of survive.
Todd: Awesome. Thank you.
Todd: Can you tell me about some of the bands that you’ve played with?
Henry: Two bands outside The Outlaws. I left The Outlaws in ‘77 and formed the Henry Paul Band and I got a record deal with Atlantic. And I cut four records with them, back to the Outlaws in the early and mid 80’s, left the Outlaws in ‘89 to form Blackhawk which was a successful country band and then went back to the Outlaws in 2005 for a 30th Anniversary Reunion with Monte and Hughie, we were the only three survivors. And then Frank and Billy were gone and I left there with the conflict between Blackhawks touring schedule and the Outlaws scheduling, it was mad. I couldn’t do both. So I left. Hughie died in ‘07 and Monte called me up. I told him that we’d be putting the band back together. We did, and this band’s been together coming up on 10 years. It’s been a lot of fun and what we’ve been doing is good work.
Todd: Can you tell me about your relationship with Ronnie Van Zandt?
Henry: Yeah, we were friends, you know, he was very supportive of the group. He took a liking to us when we first played with him. We were kind of similar in age, he and I. I was the front man for The Outlaws and of course, he was the front man for his band. We were friends, competitors. He was a big supporter. Of course, you know, we’re on the road to go out playing a lot of shows. It was success on a fairly significant level. So there were a lot of excessive of trappings socially and chemically. You know, there was fun, fighting, and drinking, and drugging, and girls, big shows, and it was, you know, it was just the kind of what people sort of imagine it’s like and it was like that but it was very fast. He was a pretty admirable guy in a lot of ways. He has sort of have always had something bigger in the back of his mind when he was dealing with people. I think he sort of had an agenda for something not exactly tangible in the moment it seemed like there was always something in the way of an image or a dream or a vision or as I use it was very principled and very interesting guy, a really good friend, and a good songwriter.
Todd: Thank you.
Todd: Can you tell me about Green Grass and High Tides? How did that come together?
Henry: It was originally a four-minute ballad, a three and a half minute ballad and Hughie was a writer on the song and we started working on that arrangement to the outro that became the outro. And we used to play it in the clubs and it went from being a three and a half, four-minute song to being five and six and then we kept working. When were clubs planned every night so we wanted to kill time. We didn’t want to be playing, you know, a whole bunch of songs so one song we could play that song for 10 or 15 minutes. I had to do four or five songs in the set. Yeah, I mean it eventually got ridiculous. But the way we perform the song now is about two or three minutes longer than the original version but it’s very more faithful to the original recorded version. The recorded version was much longer and the producer of that time Paul Rothchild edited it down to nine and a half minutes. He cut a lot of the superfluous or fat you know the musical sort of excess of musical passages. He’s a smart guy, he helped us a lot.
Todd: Cool. Have you had any run- ins with Allman Brothers?
Henry: Well, we worked with them a lot when we were younger. Always enormous fans. You know, we revere them because they were just phenomenal. I mean they were just you know great musicians. In the local Florida music scene, Duane and Gregg’s bands were always the best bands around. They were those kind of people, just a little more talented than most of the others but Dickey Betts proved to be enormously gifted and the entire band, the personality of that group was very influential on the Outlaws; obviously were twin guitars. You know, everybody in our neck of the woods were just huge fans.
Todd: Who are your favorite people to jam with?
Henry: Well, you know, it’s a good question and it’s a hard one to answer. But when we were younger and southern rock was more of a communal brotherhood of friends and like-minded supportive network of players. Marshall Tucker, Charlie Daniels, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the Allman Brothers, playing shows with those four groups were what we wanted. That’s where we wanted to be. We played with The Rolling Stones. We played with The Who. We played with Little Feat. We played with bunch over the years, there’s just an enormous cross-section of different bands. But those four bands were the ones that we admired and so jamming, doing shows with those guys was real, real, cool part of our early days in the music business.
Individuals. I write songs with Billy Crain, Dave Robbins, few different friends. But I don’t go out and just jam with people. I kind of keep it in-house with the band but those bands I mentioned earlier they were the ones that we love the most. You know, the ones we have the closest relationships with.
Todd: Who you are your favorite musical artists?
Henry: Well, there’s you know, Bob Dylan’s early work is enormously appealing to me. I’m thinking about Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited, Times They Are A Changin, Freewheelin’. I memorized those records front to back. The Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, again the Allman’s, Gordon Lightfoot. Those kinds of singer songwriters really appealed to me. David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, Stephen Stills, Richie Furay, Poco was very influential to me personally as a rock musician, a country rock musician I always really love the work. But I don’t know the Flying Burrito Brothers were kind of cool they were a little pitchy. I mean Gram Parsons was an interesting singer certainly technically not a great one but as a good songwriter. He sings flat a lot but it works. It’s just kind of his own thing and nobody sounded like him. I like Little Feat, we’ve got to play with them a lot.
Todd: Have you ever played with the Eagles?
Henry: Yeah, we didn’t play with them as much but we knew them and we shared the same producer and hung around with those guys in the studio and socially but you know they were in a league of their own. They were like somewhere away on up over there.
Todd: What are your favorite songs?
Henry: Well, I thought you know, Ramblin’ Man even though you’ve heard it enough times that you never want to hear it again was really a incredible song. I remember when I first heard it, I loved it. I loved In Memory of Elizabeth Reed. It was like just this gigantic work of art. Midnight Rider by Gregg Allman was like huge. Searching For a Rainbow by Marshall Tucker was a great song. I got Ramblin On My Mind, you know, Fire On The Mountain was a great song by them. Fire On The Mountain, the Charlie Daniels album in its entirety was a really interesting record. Richie Furey, Springfield, Poco was really cool. Those kinds of folk rock musicians are what I love and still I what I love.
Todd: What makes The Outlaws unique?
Henry: Unique? Well, the same thing that makes you unique. You know, we are our own people. We’ve been influenced by other people but we don’t try to imitate them. We sing like nobody else. The sound of my voice is unlike anybody else’s. The songs I write are significantly personal and sort of mirror my life rather uniquely my own. The guys in the band are all accomplished musicians and it makes us unique in the big picture. Nobody does what the Outlaws do today. The Allman’s are gone. Skynyrd is still a good band but they’ve changed, I think a little bit. The Outlaws just simply still play at a high level night after night and that we have our own you know unique slant on Southern rock whatever that’s supposed mean. We didn’t sound like the Lynyrd Skynyrd band, Marshall Tucker Band, we sounded like ourselves. I thought the Outlaws’ musical personality was and still is really smart.
Todd: Growing up, when I heard you guys on the radio, I always knew that it was The Outlaws.
Henry: Right. Then it wasn’t like a blues thing where it could have been anybody; it was uniquely our own thing. Like you know we all hear is Hughie’s voice, my voice, the guitar work, the songs. We got lucky. We were in the right band with the right people.
Todd: Who are your musical influences?
Henry: Well, I went back to Lightfoot and Dylan, Roger McGuinn and Stephen Stills.
Todd: Have any of them really influenced the way that you play?
Henry: Well yeah, I think Lightfoot. I’m more of a folk guitarist, not a barnburner lead guitar player. I’m a songwriter more than I am a guitar player. I can play guitar but I mean it’s… But Lightfoot I was very you know I aspire to do what he did. His first record was enormously important to me. But Richie Furey, Still’s is the greatest. I mean he’s a bad ass with regard to playing acoustic, you know.
Todd: I saw him (Stephen Stills) with CSNY in 2003. He was phenomenal.
Henry: Yeah, he’s just a uniquely gifted guy and a very special talent.
Todd: What was your first concert and what had been your favorite concerts?
Henry: Well, I went to see the Beatles at Shea Stadium. It’s a landmark moment in music history. So I would say that was probably my favorite show.
Todd: Could you hear the band over all screaming girls?
Henry: Not very well but you know years later they recorded that and the audio from that show is impeccable. They sang great, played great. But I mean you have to, you can imagine like being at Shea Stadium to see the Beatles the first time they ever played in that kind of venue is like this enormous moment in rock and roll history. So having been there and been a witness to that was really cool. And Jimi Hendrix from me to you. I mean I stood that close to him and watched him do his whole show!
Todd: And where was that?!
Henry: That was in Tampa at the convention center and I was an usher. When you were usher you got in free. They paid you five bucks for the show, and after the second song you could take your burgundy jacket off, and put it over where they went and come back. I went right up front stood in front of the stage for the whole show, it was pretty memorable. You know, impressionable. And the shows really rank up there, The Who. We opened for The Who in England; it was hugely powerful, in their prime. They were an amazing band.
Todd: What year was that?
Henry: 1976. We played with them in London and Glasgow, Scotland and Wales. There were three dates in the United Kingdom and they were in enormous athletics stadiums in front of, you know, a hundred thousand people. It was ridiculous. So yeah, it was a great way to introduce the Outlaws to the British rock scene. We did pretty good.
Todd: I know I already asked you a bunch of questions already but is there anything that you want to add in?
Henry: No, God damn son, you were all over the road with this one. I think you covered it all!
Todd: Oh! Actually one thing I forgot to ask you, how is the tour going? You had a long stretch of shows.
Henry: And you know it’s funny because we do a hundred or so dates a year. We just are always in or always out and we’re either coming or we’re going. So they all run together. So it’s not like we’re doing a tour to do anything specific, supporting a record. We’re just out here playing every night and the band is consistent, really on top and it goes really well. Plus all the guys are pretty nice guys. We all get along; we’re all go happy up and down the road.
Todd: Well, Henry thank you very much. You’ve been great. I think I have a really good interview here.
Henry: Thanks for your interest in the group and I’m going to go lie the fuck down. I’m tired.
Todd: Thank you very much.
Henry: Alright. Good to see you.