Bluesman Paul deLay dies Wednesday
- Eric Bartels
- Portland Tribune - News
He leaves behind a rich legacy of recordings as singer, songwriter and blues harmonica player
Bluesman Paul deLay, who earned worldwide recognition from his Portland home base as a singer, songwriter and blues harmonica player, died Wednesday at Providence Portland Medical Center. He was 55.
Longtime bandmate Peter Dammann said he learned of the musician's death from deLay's wife, Megan.
'She said that by the time he walked into the hospital, he was in the late stage of a really bad form of leukemia,' he said.
DeLay and his band, of which Dammann was a member, recently returned from a series of performances in Mexico. DeLay had been bothered by bronchitis, Dammann says, but had not shown signs of more serious illness.
'What's amazing to me is how much life force he brought to the stage given all the stuff he was dealing with.'
DeLay began performing in Portland clubs in the 1970s alongside musicians like Lloyd Jones and Jim Mesi, who since have become fixtures on the local blues scene. All are thought to have been pivotal in building Portland's reputation as a blues town. The annual Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival is the second largest in the nation, according to organizers.
DeLay, who leaves behind a number of highly regarded recordings, enjoyed some of his greatest success after serving four years in an Oregon federal prison following a 1990 drug trafficking arrest.
'That was his wakeup call,' Dammann says. 'And it made him resolve to do what he was put on this earth to do. His best stuff musically he did after he got busted.
'He was profoundly an artist, and in the blues genre, there aren't that many artists. He was trying to do it in a way that connected to the deepest part of who he was and that inspired everyone that played with him.'