A fine, underrated trumpeter, Paul Mares was the leader of the pacesetting New Orleans Rhythm Kings. Mares was self-taught and picked up early experience playing with Tom Brown's band on the riverboat Capitol. He left New Orleans in 1919 to work in Chicago with Ragbaby Stevens, and soon Mares was freelancing in the city. In 1921 he formed the Friars Society Orchestra, a group that prominently featured trombonist George Brunies and clarinetist Leon Rappolo. From 1922-23, the band (renamed the New Orleans Rhythm Kings) recorded for Gennett and were arguably the finest jazz group on record, at least until King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. Mares was always modest about his own playing, saying that he was influenced by Oliver, but the New Orleans Rhythm Kings became a major influence themselves on up-and-coming jazz musicians, including the members of the Austin High School Gang and Bix Beiderbecke.
The original version of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings broke up in 1924. Mares played in New York for a short time, went back to New Orleans the following year and led a couple more sessions under the name of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. He then largely retired from playing to work in the family fur business, and the New Orleans Rhythm Kings passed into history. In 1934, Mares moved to Chicago; the following year he made a brief comeback and led a recording session that resulted in four titles before he retired again. Mares ran a barbeque restaurant, did defense plant work during World War II, and returned to music in 1945, leading a final band from 1945-48 that unfortunately never recorded.