Paul Krawl is one of the many musicians both great and obscure who have witnessed and had a role in defining the era of late sixties blues based rock & roll. He was at Monterey Pops in1967 backing up Johnny Winter during an incendiary performance. Winter was so enthralled with Krawl and his band that he christened them the Kingsnakes. The name stuck and the Monterey performance gave Krawl a legitimacy that any struggling artist would aspire to.
At the tender age of fifteen Krawl played up and down the California coastline looking for nirvana and discovered in the communal spirit and shared stages with Janis Joplin, Country Joe and the Fish, Wet Willie and Uriah Heep … to name a few. Krawl signed with EMI records - Europe and that led to several top flight assignments including backing up the Pointer Sisters and taking part in a Bruce Willis film the Return of Bruno.
The Kingsnakes have made a big splash across the Ocean and toured in Europe for last ten years. They are credited as being one of the top R&B and Dance Bands in England, Japan, Russia, as well as in the southern states of America. Currently the Kingsnakes are putting the finishing touches on a new album entitled Woman Troubles.
Krawl was gracious during an interview with Review Magazine and he laughed when he described his early influences. “My next-door neighbor was Buck Owens when we lived in Bakersfield, California. I was probably 15 years old when I hooked up with Buck and Don Rich. I went over and bugged the shit out of him. Buck lived over in East Bakersfield near the Kern Valley. They have a ranch out there. All the guys got ranches out in that area. He and some of the guys started a thing and they bought a movie house near Chester Lane and they converted it into a studio. That was 1962 or so, the original Buck Owens studio. That's where I actually recorded a few things in there after everybody had left.”
Krawl smiles when he recalls the biggest influence, his cousin Key Salcido. “He was in a band called The Classics. He was real popular in California down there. He'd show me some chords and things. I just took off after that. I combined Buck Owens with a lot of the different stylists in Bakersfield. They were starting the honky-tonk sound and I just picked that up. I combined it with blues because I was influenced a lot by B.B. King. I just started combining all those styles and then my own style emerged.”
Paul was in the right place at the right time during the turbulent sixties when youth culture and creativity dominated the scene. He rubbed shoulders with Country Joe & the Fish, Janis Joplin and other big names. “I was a kid, 15 years old and I basically ran away from home. They had a place called the
Big House in the Haight Ashbury. I even lived there. There were a lot of notables that weren't known at the time like Grace Slick and Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia. I got to play music with all those people, all of 'em.” It was an incredible era that embraced personal and musical experimentation. “I was immersed in that era and started experimenting with that sound. I played with William Martin Brown. He is the one that wrote the original “Wipe Out. It was picked up and recorded by the Surfaris and they made it famous.”
Krawl ended up performing at the 1967 Monterey Pops Festival.
He felt it was a bit of a fluke. He explains. “I was in this kid's band the Heaters and we were pretty well known in California. We had a big following for a while. That's when we started opening for a lot of bands. We were opening for some heavy cats. We were fronting Janis & Big Brother & the Holding Company and Bill Champlin. We got to play the Monterey Pops Festival fronting Johnny Winter because band had dropped out. It was just a lucky break.”
Legend has it that Johnny Winter renamed Paul's band The Kingsnakes and Paul insists it's not exactly true. “Winters was playing a song that he had just released and the following day all the papers picked up, “Crawlin' King Snakes fronted by Johnny Winter. A smash hit.” So that's when we changed our name to The Kingsnakes and we've had it ever since.”
He shrugs when he's asked about backing up the Pointer Sisters. “They weren't the Pointer Sisters then. They called themselves the Brownettes. The Pointer Sisters were very professional; they would come in, do their job and get out. It was great working with them. We actually backed them up on stage on a couple of occasions including the Troubadour in LA”.
Paul learned some valuable lessons during his time on the road. “My ma told me to always have a back-up so I became an engineer. I do industrial engineering and emissions control products. And I've got a few patents. One thing that's good about mathematics and music, they both go hand-in-hand.”
He also developed a fine sense of altruism in developing the talents of the young. “I think schools made a big mistake by eliminating music programs. That really bothers me and that's why we go overseas through Music Exchange. We go into Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Africa, Switzerland, England, France - all these different countries and we go into the grammar schools and high schools and even colleges to show them what we know about music and Chicago or southern blues.
Paul reminisced about his hero BB King. “BB once told me to tell the audience a story and do it with feeling and do it with conviction. I saw B.B. King practice one note for an hour just trying to get the bend right, to get that sound and texture, trying to get what he wants to feel out of that note. That's what inspires me to this day.”
Get ready to boogie!
Paul Krawl and the Kingsnakes are performing at White's Bar Friday November 1st with special guest Matt Besey. This will mark their official CD Release Party in Michigan