Tawl Paul: Carbondale's Towering Music Legend Gets His Own Day

Tawl Paul:  Carbondale's Towering Music Legend Gets His Own Day
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Slappin' Henry Blue

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Slappin' Henry Blue

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Hangar 9


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Few Southern Illinois musicians are more worthy of having their own day dedicated to them than Tawl
Leah Williams Wright

Few Southern Illinois musicians are more worthy of having their own day dedicated to them than Tawl Paul Frederick.

“There was a rumor going around,” Tawl Paul told Nightlife. “I just tried to stay out of it.”

It is official now. Tawl Paul Day will be declared Sunday, June 23 at the Hangar 9 by Carbondale mayor Joel Fritzler.

Nightlife spoke with Paul between sets of a recent Slappin' Henry Blue show at the Bluffs Winery in Ava. Paul candidly discussed the surreality of Southern Illinois fame, the evolution of playing with top-tier talent in Carbondale, and the perils of really making it.

A native Chicagoan, Paul remembers the first blues he ever heard was when his parents hosted parties.

“No one could afford to go to the bars, so everyone would just come over, and they'd play records,” he said.

His band Slappin' Henry Blue has played in the area for more than twenty years. Paul, who was a part of Da Blooz and Pontiac Jones, previously relocated to Seattle and San Francisco back when the Carbondale scene was either overrun with disco fever or in a country-western kick. Those fads came and went, but Paul eventually came back and settled down for good in Southern Illinois.

What kept him in Carbondale, Paul said, was the aesthetic beauty of the area and that he could build the quality of life he wanted here.

“I could afford to live here,” Paul explained. “If I would have went back to Chicago, I couldn't have lived like I lived here. I have a nice place in the country; I really like it. Southern Illinois is beautiful. It really is.”

Paul spoke fondly of the Club--- located where the garden of the Bike Surgeon is now--- where a different kind of band played every night, and you knew if you were not in attendance, you missed out on something major.

“You had to be there, because you knew something funky was going to go down,” he said.

Paul said the coming proclamation made him think back on his music career.

“It's quite an honor. I was getting kind of nostalgic thinking about all the people and the musicians that have worked with me over the years,” he said.

Paul said he experienced a surreal moment last month when he was approached by several different fans during a gig.

“What is really weird is, when the last time I played at PK's, it was graduation weekend,” he said. “And there were people coming up to me and telling me that they went here in 1980 and now their kid is graduating. And then it's like, 'Oh, geez. How many generations does this go?'”

Playing the Southern Illinois scene is different now. In addition to bars, Slappin' Henry Blue often plays at wineries, which allows some of the band's audiences to come see them in a different setting and an earlier time of day.

Paul said the Carbondale music scene has gone through its peaks and valleys, but through it all it has always made room for him and the blues.

“It's a roller coaster,” he said. “It has its highs and lows. Americana is really big right now. They do their thing. We're still playing. We don't down what they do and we're still here.”

Paul may be okay with being a Carbondale institution, but he does have one absolute: He has no desire to reach the kind of celebrity that invades his privacy.

“One thing, I don't want to be famous,” he said. “Hell, no. You ever watch Entertainment Tonight? They tear people apart. They are doing it to [Justin] Bieber right now. They did it to Britney [Spears] before that. Lord, what they put that woman through.”

Paul said he enjoys all of the songs he performs as well as the opportunity to meet and perform with some of the best in the area. Looking at all who have played with him over the years is literally a rockin' Rolodex of top-tier musicians.

And getting to share the stage with them is what makes Paul feel very honored.

“I'm so privileged to be around great musicians and to be hanging around great musicians,” he said. “I really am.”

who: Tawl Paul

what: Tawl Paul Day

where: Hangar 9

when: Sunday, June 23