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Interview with Outlaws | Henry Paul: "The Southern Rock community is a great deal of comradery in the bands that represented Southern Rock in the early middle ‘70s."

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Dear Henry, thank you very much for having this interview on behalf of “Black Velvet Radio”, it’s really an honour and we are very proud talking to you.

Henry Paul: Well you are sweet to say that and it’s my pleasure.

 

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It was great news indeed to be informed that “Outlaws” have a new album, that was released on February 28th, eight years after your last release so far, called “It’s About Pride”….. “Dixie Highway” is the 11th studio album of the band since your eponymous one, back in 1975, right?

Henry Paul: That’s right

 

 

Now, what we want to ask you, is what is the meaning of the title and what should we expect in this new release?

Henry Paul: Well “Dixie Highway” is somewhat a metaphor for our kind of career, just a long term journey, that we had have been on for the last fifty plus years and if you listen, I don’t know if you have been able to listen to the record, but the lyrics sort of spell it out in a way, that the road, that the lifestyle, that our chosen path is difficult, but rewarding and you know, internalized a very sinserious commitment to it. So you know, I just think that, you can’t do what we do and do it part time, it’s a full time job and really takes an eternal life time to do what is you are sent out to do, it really does, it takes a long time…..

 


Besides the metaphor, “Dixie Highway” is an actual highway back in the days, right?

Henry Paul: Yeah, it’s an old old north south back round.

 


Some parts of this highway are still existing, right? I mean it’s not in use, but….

Henry Paul: Well there is a “Highway 41”, which is the “Dixie Highway” in certain parts that runs through Tampa, where we grew up and every time we left Tampa, to go on the road, we were always going out on that road to other destinations to America. So “Highway 41” which is the “Dixie Highway” was in a way kind of important road that got us from where we were to where we wanted to be and again is somewhat of a metaphor, that we would travel that road to get where we were going.

 

Since we are speaking about meaning of titles and words and metaphors, what is the meaning behind the name of your band, “Outlaws”, are you an outlaw in a way what does this mean for you?

Henry Paul: Well, we thought, you know my idea pertaining to that, that we were, it was a short of western kind adaptation to the name and so because of that western kind adaptation, we decided that we liked that name and the job description, to a certain extent, is a little bit, how would you say, we thought:”Hell is a good name as any”. It didn’t necessarily mean that we were living outside the law, but we were living outside the normal lifestyle issues that are going to make a person’s life.


The new single “Southern Rock Will Never Die” from your new LP was officially released on January 17th and it seems to me that it will be another Southern Rock Anthem that refers to other fellow southern musicians that have passed away, if I’m not mistaken. Would you like to comment about the southern rock scene legacy and the so many musicians who have died by accidents or health issues, especially about your old friend Hughie Thomasson, who died in 2007 by heart attack, he was only 55 years old….

Henry Paul: We have lost so many friends to so many different things, so many different lifestyle issues and the song is kind alike…. I don’ t know, you know when you list all the people that have died, trying to convince the rest that they will never die, in the face of so much loss, for each individual and the people that I have played with, were committed to the idea of keeping the genre alive.

 

There is a later of losses, from Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, to the tragic accident of the plane crash of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Hughie Thomasson and a lot of people who died by accidents or due to health issues very young.

Henry Paul: Well, it’s no secret that music business is a breeding ground for self abuse. I mean drugs and alcohol, David Crosby, Eric Clapton and all the stories of The Rolling Stones and Keith Richards has a sort, a kind of ominous tone to it. Anyway, I mean it has the idea of just continuing going forward.

 

Now, let’s go back in the time. You had joined the band back in 1972, same year with your current drummer Monte Yoho, as well as with Frank O’ Keefe, who died in 1995. Please talk to us about the first years of “Outlaws”. From the very first days of your incarnation you had a line up including three guitar players and fans used to refer to you as “The Florida Guitar Army”, why is common for the southern rock bands to use three guitars? 

Henry Paul: I don’t know, that’s a good question. It was just kind out of circumstantial fate so to speak, that’s how it world out. You know we had three guitar players and it just evolved into what became just by kind of luck, you know it wasn’t something that we planned out. “The Allman Brothers” had two guitar players, “Lynyrd Skynyrd” three guitar players, you know Hughie and Billy loved to play together and I was good on guitar playing, that was the sound of the band and that’s how it had worked out and you know it served us well, all had so many to do… For us it was also the vocal part, Hughie, Billy and I were singing together and that was really part of our sound too, the vocal harmonies and just by luck of the draw, we end up with the band that we had and it all seemed to work out.

 

 

Exactly, the harmonies of the band were a little bit different from other bands, giving you a different touch, a different soul in your music….

Henry Paul: The “Outlaws” had their own music personality, they weren’t all that much like “The Allman Brothers” or “Lynyrd Skynyrd”, even “The Marshall Tucker Band” or “The Charlie Daniels Band”, we were more of a vocal band, a harmonizing vocal band and so it kind set us apart, just the difference that the “Outlaws” had a different sound from the other groups.

 

 

The band released the first three studio albums, “Outlaws” (1975), “Lady In Waiting” (1976) and “Harry Sundown” (1977), all of them “cemented” your reputation and described you as a “cornerstone” of the scene, with songs like “There Goes Another Love Song”, “Song In The Breeze”, “Stick Around For Rock ‘N’ Roll”, “Breaker-Breaker”, “Holiday”, “Hurry Sundown” and many more. I believe a special reference to your “trademark” song “Green Grass & High Tides” is required, can you tell us something about the song, comment the lyrics?

Henry Paul: The song “Green Grass And High Tides” was something that we arranged collectively as a band, when we were playing in clubs and in the clubs the common routine was to play four or five sets per night of forty or forty five minutes and “Green Grass And High Tides” took a long time to play and we just got to the point with that song, where we trying make it last longer so that we had to play less and it worked out pretty good, at the time we got to make our first record the song was some minutes more long and became one of the favorites with our audience and with the kids and the clubs and when we made the record, it jumped out there on FM radio and became one of the favorites of the album, so we were closing the show every night and the people loved that song. The lyrics were round majestic, sort of story, but I know that it was written about the guy from “The Rolling Stones” that died (… Brian Jones 28/02/1942-03/07/1969), Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and people like that… It was written about them, the early eggs and just how they lived their lives and if you remember “The Rolling Stones” early hits collection record was called “High Tide And Green Grass” and we just took that title and turned it around backwards and call it “Green Grass And High Tides” and so that it was kind where that lyric came from.

 

Is it true that Ronnie Van Zant, lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd, told Clive Davis, founder and president of “Arista Records”, to sign you a contract, during a show in 1974, when you were supporting Lynyrd Skynyrd and that you were the first act of the company?

Henry Paul: Ronnie was a fan of our band, we played together six
or seven times and he introduced us to his manager at that time, was helpful on us getting a record deal and then he denied that Clive Davis came to see the band, Ronnie knew he was in the audience and he told Clive that: “He was crazy if he didn’t sign the group”, so Ronnie was a very big supporter of our group and a very good friend.


You left “Outlaws” originally, for the first time in 1977, on the pick of the career of the band, why, what happed?

Henry Paul: I think bands are very volatile relationships, it’s well documented and I really liked where the band was headed, I liked the musical personality, that we had created and I didn’t really see a reason to change that or to change directions or courses with the music, so Hughie and Billy, they wanted to go a different way with it and I disagreed with them, I liked our first album (“Outlaws”), I liked “Lady In Waiting”, I liked “Hurry Sundown” and so that difference between them and I, forced me from the band. It was very hurtful, it was very difficult, but also I was a fighter and I wound up forming “Henry Paul Band”, let things go and getting into that.

 

 

You have formed your personal band, one year later if I’m not mistaken and you have released four studio albums with “Henry Paul Band” in total.

Henry Paul: That was a learning experience for me, to be sort of a leader, a sole leader of the band. My tenure early in the “Outlaws”, I was the band leader in that early configuration and then with the “Henry Paul Band” I was kind of the sole leader, because the name of the band and everything was pointing at me and it was a really good learning experience for me.

In your first album “Grey Ghost” you composed two songs in the memory of Ronnie Van Zant. Do you believe that he is the most important “icon” of the scene?

Henry Paul: He was important and when you die young, it kind sets you up for immortality, but that being said, I know he was important to us, because he was instrumental and helping us been discovered (“Outlaws”) and that was a lot of value, on what he represented to us and “The Allman Brothers Band” were incredibly popular, high and mighty, way out of our league, from their stand point, of their career profile, it was huge and so the band “Lynyrd Skynyrd”, they were a lot more, sort on our level and we round up forming a real friendship with them, that was just how kind of played it out.

 

 

You returned to “Outlaws” in 1983 for only one record “Soldier Of Fortune” in 1986 and remained in the band until 1989.

Henry Paul: That’s right and then again for Hughie, it was more of financial decisions and I think Hughie wanted to go with that alone, the whole thing kind of alone and I was cool, if that was what he wanted to do, that was cool, but again I didn’t waste any time and forming another career by going to Nashville and forming “Blackhawk” in 1991. It got to me like a pattern.

 

You released with “Blackhawk” eight studio albums, a country band, remaining still a member of the band.

Henry Paul: That was born kind of my country music, country rock roots. “Blackhawk” was born out of more of a songwriting arrangement that just happened to get lucky and get a record deal and we didn’t know that we had a string of hits, a millions of records, it was amazing, it was crazy. I think when I signed with “Arista” to the second time with “Blackhawk”, I was 43 years old, pretty far past from the normal signing days, you know for young new talent, I was a middle aged man, but I was youthful in my appearance, youthful in my spirit and Dale, Dave and I were writing very good songs, we sound good singing together we got signed to the label and that first record (Blackhawk, 1994) was a double platinum on release, it was crazy. I mean having three different careers, it by itself it’s a very unique set of circumstances.

 

 

Before we go back to “Outlaws” and the final reincarnation of the band, I would like to ask you a couple of things, about the southern rock scene. First of all I understand that there is a strong bond between the bands and many artists wrote songs, dedicated to the southern rock scene, mentioning other bands. I mean you wrote “Southern Rock Will Never Die”, Charlie Daniel wrote “The South’s Gonna Do It Again”, why is that? Unfortunately this is an attitude not very common in the rock scene…

Henry Paul: The Southern Rock community is a great deal of comradery in the bands that represented Southern Rock in the early middle ‘70s. “Outlaws” were a little bit later than “The Charlie Daniels Band” obviously and “Marshall Tucker Band” and “Lynyrd Skynyrd” and it was something that “The Allman Brothers Band” started and I was extremely proud of the fact that I was a part of what it represented, I mean we were all just having fun together on the road, representing the part of U.S.A. we came from and we didn’t have to go to New York or Los Angeles, we could stay in Florida or Tennessee or Georgia or South Carolina and we could represent the South, or represent better yet the State of Florida or Tampa specifically and gave us a certain sense of pride and also gave us a sense of belonging in something bigger with bands like “Charlie Daniels”, “Marshall Tucker” and “Lynyrd Skynyrd”, those three bands.

 

 

This leads me to the next question, that I would like to ask you, without putting you in α hard place and if you don’t want to reply, I will understand that, but I would like to ask you something that troubles me too much. Unfortunately many people, without even getting down to listen to southern rock music or even read the lyrics, consider the southern rock bands in general as racists rednecks, maybe because of the racial problems in that area too many years ago or because of the rebel flags that they see in album covers or in live shows. How do you respond to them?

Henry Paul: Well, I reject the notion that our music represents racism, nothing could be farther from the truth, our music simply represents our own short of small story… The confederate flag has fallen from grace from the standpoint of what it represents. You have to remember something and it is very complex, many layered sociologically equation, but the civil war as it turns out, it was really about one thing, it was about slavery and when the South lost the war, there were a lot of people, that tried to make the war about something different and the confederate flag to us, as young people never meant racism, it just meant geographical connection and when it became clear that the war wasn’t about state’s rights, that was about slavery and that people were offended by the confederate flag, everyone including “Lynyrd Skynyrd” stopped using it and distanced themselves from it, because we are not in the business of hurting people, we are in the business of making music and putting a smile of their face and so nowhere in our lyrics do we allude to the fact, that there is a racial issue on the table. We just write about our friends, where we have been, what we have done, what it means and that we were actually able to continue to still do it again, so that’s kind of where we are at with it and it doesn’t really reflect anything racially on our part and I suppose you can understand why people would assume that because the band is from the south and they have in occasions waved the confederate flag, that they have might been foreseen as racists and I certainly understand that, but nothing could be farther from the truth. I speak for myself and everybody in our band, but I also speak for the other groups, I know these people, they are not racists, at least I hope they are not, I mean, we love everybody equally, we want everyone to have the opportunity to have the best life they can and so there is not a part of us that is orchestrated to try to hold someone else down.

 

The “Volunteer Jam” is an annual music festival that was originally held by Charlie Daniels band, you have also taken part. Why is this festival so important for the scene, that all bands are eager to play there?

Henry Paul: Well, it was an opportunity very early on for us to get together and play a show together and Charlie was older than most of us and short of represented a “father” figure in the shop and so, when Charlie Daniels called on everyone to come and play with him, we all jumped in the chance to do it, because we loved and respected Charlie and we loved one another and wanted play together and it was validation that we were part of something again, something bigger, something important and there was a great deal of affection for one another, so it was just an opportunity to go and do something with our friend.

 

 

Now, let’s go back to “Outlaws”. After some sporadic reunions on stage and the death of Hughie in 2007, “Outlaws” came back to life one year later, due to yours and Monte Yoho efforts, with a new line up, performing live for several years, before releasing a new album. How did it felt to be back on the road with these guys, continuing the legend of “Outlaws”?

Henry Paul: First of all I knew that if I formed the group called the “Outlaws”, there was some risk involved in the fans excepting it. I was aware of the risk involved, because I know what the “Outlaws” musical personality embodied and I helped create that personality with my contribution to the band early on, but I knew if I put the right people in the band, most of the people in the band in 2005, were people that I brought to the group, Randy Threet, Chris Anderson, Dave Robbins. All these people were people that I knew and invited into the band. My invitation to Chris to join the “Outlaws” goes back to 1986, so when I suggested that I was gonna put the band back together with Chris Anderson and Randy Threet and I was going to invite Billy Crane, a stand out guitarist in the “Henry Paul Band” and I was going to play with Monte (Yoho), I knew that the band would be good, I knew that the band would be great and I knew that the band would be faithful to my direction and insistence, that the band would be faithful to the “Outlaws” musical personality and so whatever risk and there was a significant amount of risk, I was willing to take it, because I knew that we would put a great show on, we would treat those songs respectfully and we also had people in the band that could write and record new music to move the “brand” into the future, so that was my goal from the beginning, was not to play all the songs that Hughie, Billy and I have written and play them faithfully to the band’s original musical personality, but we would write and record new music and push the band into the future, create our own legacy, to go with that of the original group.

 

You have told us just now about the problem, the risk, if everybody else would accept the name. I would like to ask you about the lawsuit you faced in 2010 by Hughie’s widow, for trademark violations, do you want to comment this?

Henry Paul: Well, I don’t wanna talk about that, but let me say this about all of that… My intensions from the beginning were to respect the brand and my fellow band mates that started the band together with me. When that lawsuit hit the table, I defended myself honestly and my coworkers, because I’ve been there since the beginning and I do what the “Outlaws” musical personality consisted of and I knew I was going to be faithful to it and any notion that I had to answer to someone else, about how the band was gonna conduct itself in the market place, as a professional entity was not negotiable. When Hughie’s wife wanted to contempt with me, for control of the band, I did what I had to do.

 

In 2012 you had released the acclaimed album “It’s About Pride”, which was a magnificent come back! What is this “Pride” you are talking about and what does it means for you?

Henry Paul: It goes back to what I have said about “pride” on our accomplishments and our own efforts and “pride” in being part of something bigger than ourselves, being respected members of the “Southern Rock Community” and being successful in our dream of becoming a popular recording artist, with songs that reflected our lives and set us apart from other musicians in our accomplishment and that was the message in that song.

 



This new reincarnation of “Outlaws” was a new start for the band or a new chapter in a long book of music history?

Henry Paul: it’s really more of a new chapter. I mean part of my goal when I came back to the “Outlaws” and assumed the leadership role in the group was, like I said, write and record new music, so that we would have all the songs from the albums that I participated from the early mid ‘70s and then we would write and record our own songs, that reflected the people that were in the band with me today and I’m talking about Billie Crane and Dave Oliver, Steve Grisham, all these people that go out every night and play their heart out, on that stage every night. These records reflect their part in the “Outlaws” music legacy and so I felt like, we should treat that legacy, that musical legacy and the personality of the group with a great deal of respect and a great deal of attention placed on style, sort that we would not disturb or in any way change, or try to change the musical of the band the “Outlaws”, I wanted to always play strongly into the original musical personality and these records, “It’s About Pride” and “Dixie Highway” played very squarely into the band’s music personality. That was the reason behind all that.

 

 

What keeps you on the road all these years, what is motivating you?

Henry Paul: Well, It’s my job and I mean we work for money, to make money to live on and to pay our bills and we also work to try and improve upon our reputation as meaningful members of a band that has such a rich history like the “Outlaws”. Those are the two motivating factors for me, is taking care of that brand, making sure that is being treated respectfully and also making sure that the guys that come out there and work with me, have the opportunity to enjoy the fans, enthusiastic reactions of their contribution and also make a living, let’s face it, I mean this is the way that we make our living, is how we earn money to pay our bills.


 

We understand what you are saying, but in the same time if you don’t love very strongly what you are doing, you will not be able to last on the road, because it’s very difficult, you have to face a lot of difficulties. I mean living on the road, in different hotels, on the stage every night, it’s very tiring.

Henry Paul: Listen there is not a lot of money in this and it’s not like we getting rich, number one. Number two, everybody does it for their own self satisfaction and we are looking for the same thing, that you might be looking for as a journalist, respect from your peers and the “Outlaws” go out every night and play very hard and they distinguish themselves as a band, every time they take the stage and so all of the attention and all of the focus that comes with the original band and the questions that come out, “are they as good?” or “are they entitled?”, “are they worthwhile?” or “are they valid?”, those questions are answered every night on stage, by the commitment that goes with our performance and the hard work that goes into writing and recording new music. Those are all the reasons why we do what we do. I certainly wouldn’t have gone back and form a new version of a band called the “Outlaws”, just to go out there and jack off and make a mess of it. I went out there to improve upon the band’s musical personality and my part in that.



How long do you think you will be out there? You give a piece of your heart, of your soul, every time you go on stage or you write a song….

Henry Paul: I think that I’ve got another five years, I mean I can do it until I’m 75, but you know that’s just my goal.



Finally what do you have to say to the Greek fans of Southern Rock? I can assure you that there is a strong and big fan base here and “Outlaws” are one of the most favorite bands of the scene in Greece.

Henry Paul: We would love to come to Greece, play for you and we are honored that you love our band.

 

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Chris Mouskos, Stamatis Bourdos

 

Black Velvet Radio

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