Paul Banks

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Back in the '20s, Paul Banks was a bluesman associated with the early days of the Kansas City scene. While the odor of cow manure was undoubtedly stronger in the air back then than in the Kansas City…
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Back in the '20s, Paul Banks was a bluesman associated with the early days of the Kansas City scene. While the odor of cow manure was undoubtedly stronger in the air back then than in the Kansas City of today, this scent stands no comparison with his piano playing or songwriting craftsmanship, either in artistic merit or access to the general public's noses, so to speak. Banks is an obscurity even among the specialists in boogie-woogie piano or classic blues accompanists. In a climate reeking with reissues, only a few recordings involving Banks can be sniffed out.

His activities as a songwriter fare somewhat better, on the other hand. He landed tunes with the recording enterprises of both OKeh and Paramount in the '20s; both labels pressed large amounts of so-called "race" records during this period. Banks found a sweet tooth with "Sugar Daddy Blues," which has been recorded by several blues artists. This song title has also been used by several other blues artists for their own songs. Banks' "Waco, Texas Blues" was recorded by Mary Bradford with the Bennie Moten Orchestra, while "Ill Natured Blues" showed that Banks was willing to visit a morose mood as well as wacky Waco in his lyrics. Ada Brown cut a version of the latter tune for OKeh, but some reissues have warped the title into "Ill Natural Blues," perhaps indicating a song about the consequences of eating too much "all natural" snack food.

Sylvester Kimbrough, whose kazoo playing is worthy of an essay in itself, provided the pianist with a key studio moment in the recording of several duets. This material, available on the album Kansas City Blues (1924-1929), comes with so much surface noise that some listeners think the duets are actually trios. Banks also worked as an accompanist with singers Lottie Beaman and Hattie Pearson. The original recording of "Sugar Daddy Blues" was in fact a three-way collaboration by these artists, written by Pearson and Banks and sung by Beaman.