SQUAW VALLEY — Tuesday’s Bluesdays performer Paul Thorn will be the first to say he’s an entertainer and not a bluesman.
“An entertainer can click with any crowd,” Thorn, who is from Tupelo, Miss., told Tahoe Onstage. “I’m a big fan of the earlier style of entertainer, like the ‘Dean Martin Show.’ He was a great singer but between songs he would tell jokes. He was an entertainer. I consider myself an entertainer, and when you are an entertainer it broadens your audience.”
Thorn’s audience is growing in northern California and Nevada. The North Shore, especially the Crystal Bay Casino, has been an annual stop for the past few years.
“I love coming out here,” he said. “For whatever reason, our fan base is really growing. When we do shows, a lot of people show up. It’s a wonderful thing.”
During California tours, Thorn, an adopted member of the blues community, goes to Marin County to play at Angela Strehle’s Rancho Nacasio and to visit Elvin Bishop. Thorn’s latest album was comprised of cover songs, including the title track written by Bishop, “What The Hell is Going On?”
Thorn drew the album cover art for Bishop’s “I Can’t Even Do Wrong Right,” to be released Aug. 19, the same day Thorn’s new record, “Too Blessed to be Stressed,” comes out.
“It’s a big thrill because when I was a little kid when I saw him play ‘Fooled Around and Fell in Love’ on ‘The Midnight Special’ with Wolfman Jack,” Thorn said. “So when you get to meet him and eventually become friends with him and then do one of his album covers, it’s almost like something out of a Forrest Gump movie.
“He does this song about a guy who is always doing the wrong things and he’s always getting caught. So I just drew a picture of this guy who is in a hotel room with a woman who don’t belong to him and in the scene there is a sack of weed on the ground and he’s got a joint in his mouth and his pants are down to his knees getting ready to get it on and all of a sudden his wife walks in with a baseball bat and she’s standing there getting ready to beat the hell out of him.”
Thorn said he’s had an unprecedented crowd response from the songs from his upcoming album. They are catchy, feel-good anthems that are easy to sing along with, he said. The title song came from a woman Thorn attended church with when he was a boy.
“She always had these little pearls of wisdom, little one-liners that I always remembered,” Thorn said. “I’d say, ‘How are you doing today Sister Johnson?’ And she’s say, ‘I’m too blessed to be stressed.’ I always liked that phrase and after all these years I made a song out of it.”
Before Thorn started his career as a musician, he was a professional boxer, and a good one, too. He had world title aspirations. After a loss to former champ Roberto Duran, he wrote a song about it and changed direction.
The sport of boxing’s loss was a victory for music fans.
Now Thorn uses punch lines to get hits instead of punching and getting hit. But his penchant to entertain would have made him a popular champion.
“There are very few endearing entertainers in the sport of boxing,” Thorn said. “They are kind of generic. After a fight they’ll say, ‘Well, I want to thank my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, and all my fans out there.’ There’s no color.
“When Muhammad Ali would get interviewed by Howard Cosell, he’d try to take his toupee off his head. He did stuff. A lot of these young athletes try to emulate Ali. What was cool about Ali was everything he did, he did it with a wink in his eye. He was not taking himself too seriously, but these guys today don’t get that. They don’t get the spirit of what somebody like Muhammad Ali really contained.”
Thorn credits his entertainment skills to his family.
“My father was a Pentecostal preacher and my uncle was a pimp, so entertaining is something I came by naturally because preachers, besides preaching about God, they also have to be entertaining to keep people coming back each Sunday.”
Coincidentally, Thorn plays Bluesdays one week after a performance from Tupelo’s Homemade Jamz.
Bluesdays 6-8:30 p.m. in the Squaw Valley Village
July 29 – Paul Thorn
Aug. 5 – Hamilton Loomis
Aug. 12 – Shane Dwight
Aug. 19 – Nikki Hill
Aug. 26 – Terry Hanck (Shows are free)
ABOUT Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.