Drummer Philip Paul has been called “the heartbeat of early rock and roll.” As a session musician at King, he provided the backbeat for countless classic and obscure songs of all genres. His versatility, creativity, and dependability made him invaluable as a member of the company’s studio band.
Paul was born in New York in 1925 to a musical family from St. Thomas and St. Croix, Virgin Islands. He began playing drums at the age of nine and as a teenager played Harlem nightclubs with his family’s band. In 1951, Tiny Bradshaw invited him to join his band in their house gig at Cincinnati’s Cotton Club. Paul would play with Bradshaw’s band for nine years, but the gig would also introduce him to King Records.
After hearing him record with Bradshaw’s band, Syd Nathan asked Paul to become a session musician for the company. In addition to playing with R&B, blues, country, and early rock and roll artists, Paul also recorded drumbeats for country records which had been cut without them, as drums were very new to country music at the time.
Some of Paul’s drumming credits include Little Willie John’s “Fever,” first recorded at King, and the very first version of “The Twist,” recorded with Hank Ballard and the Midnighters.