This weekend, Cincinnatians will be invited to celebrate the life of a true local legend.
On Sunday, July 17, a celebration of iconic Cincinnati musician Philip Paul is set to take place at Washington Park. The 96-year-old died on January 30, 2022.
Paul was a legendary drummer and musician, having played on over 350 recordings for Cincinnati's King Records during his time as session drummer from the early 1950s through the mid '60s and beyond. He even created the beat for "The Twist" by Hank Ballard (further popularized after Dick Clark's friend Chubby Checker performed it on American Bandstand), and played on the first recording of "Train Kept A-Rollin'" during his time as drummer for the Tiny Bradshaw Orchestra.
The famed local musician also played on "Fever" by Little Willie John, "Hideaway" by Freddie King (a huge influence on '60s electric guitar players like Eric Clapton and Peter Frampton) and "Please Come Home For Christmas" by Charles Brown (now a Christmas standard). He also performed with Grand Ole Opry star Cowboy Copas and toured the country in the finest Jazz clubs of the era. Jazz legend Duke Ellington even once asked him to join his band.
During his later years, Paul was one of the key figures (alongside fellow King Records artists Otis Williams and Bootsy Collins) involved in advocating for the revitalization of the King Records buildings on Brewster Avenue in Evanston and preservation of the record label's legacy. His advocacy eventually led to the creation of an "historic marker, the local landmark designation and the City’s acquisition of King properties in Evanston," according to a press release. Most recently, the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board approved the nomination of the King Records complex to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Mr. Philip Paul was the consummate professional support musician in the studio, on the road and as an educator," said Kent Butts, the board chair and executive director of the King Records Legacy Foundation, in a release. "As demonstrated in his long-dedicated career of work with a vast array of top and new artists within multiple styles. He and those like him are one of the main reasons I have devoted my life’s work to the legacy of King Records and the universal language of music! He was a very close friend and he’ll be sorely missed, but never forgotten!”
In honor of his 96 years of life, the celebration at Washington Park will include 96 minutes of jazz and blues tributes, along with 96 screen prints of the mural featuring Paul, Williams and Collins. The jazz and blues sets feature musicians who played with Paul. Spoken word tributes about Paul and his legacy will take place during the event. Guests will also be able to pick up free copies of Paul's albums "It's About Time" and "Live at the Cincinnatian."
The event is free to attend and takes place from 2-6 p.m. on Sunday, July 17 at Washington Park (1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine). More information about Paul and his enduring legacy in Cincinnati and beyond can be found by visiting kingrecords.org.