Fans of the blues will be in for a treat this Monday.
Paul James, winner of the Jimmy Lewis Memorial Lifetime in the Blues Award, will be bringing his one-man show to Elmira’s Central Tavern.
James, who has played with the likes of Bob Dylan and Bo Diddley, got his start at the age of 7, when he learned to play the accordion.
“It was not the exotic instrument it is now,” laughed James, in a telephone interview. “It was a squeezebox.”
James said that his family couldn’t afford a piano, so the accordion served as a substitute. And while he didn’t fall in love with the instrument, it served a very useful purpose — he learned how to read music, which served him later in life, when he picked up the guitar.
He purchased his first guitar at the age of 12.
“It was the beginning of the British Invasion,” recalled James. “I fell in love with the music.”
And, when his dad passed away, music became his way of coping.
“The guitar became my best friend; it became my psychiatrist,” said James.
It was a vastly different experience from his time with the accordion — which he rarely picked up to practice. With the guitar, he would play it from first thing in the morning until late at night.
While he was learning to play the songs by the British artists he so admired, he started learning about their influences — the early singers of rock and roll, including Elvis, Chuck Berry and Little Richard.
And when he started finding out more about their influences, he found the blues’ musicians — leading him to a lifelong love of the music.
And as he pursued his career, he ended up being fortunate enough to play with some of the greats.
James said he met Dylan after one of his shows in the 1980s, when Dylan showed up and joined in.
“We sort of became friends, if you can become friends with Bob Dylan — he kind of shows up and then he’s gone.”
James said he will be bringing three guitars — including his National steel body guitar from the 1930s — and his rack harmonica, for an acoustic set that will include a mixture of songs, including much of his own music. And he plans on “hitting (the audience) right between the eyes.
“When I play, I don’t holding back; I’ll give it my all.”
The show at the Central Tavern starts at 8 p.m. Admission is $15 at the door. For more information on Paul James, visit www.pauljamesband.com.