Paul Geremia

Rhode Island native Paul Geremia has made his living as a singer-songwriter and superb guitarist since the mid-1960s. His earliest memories of music are listening to opera on his grandfather’s wind-up record player back before he could read (his parents told him that he could always pick out his favorite record, “Madam Butterfly,” because he remembered it had an orange label). Geremia started playing harmonica when he was 12, probably, he said, because he was so enamored with cowboy movies. His first guitar, a Stella acoustic, was one his mother bought for his father, who never bothered to learn how to play it. But Geremia did, eventually working up to a Harmony, a Framus, a Gibson Hummingbird, and finally a Gibson J-200. In 1963, he was knocked out by seeing live performances by Mississippi John Hurt at the Newport Folk Festival and by Tim Hardin at the Club 47 in Cambridge, but recently revealed another major influence, saying, “I really learned to fingerpick more from listening to Jack Elliott do ‘Railroad Bill’ than from anything else.” Geremia made his professional debut in 1966 at the Tete a Tete Coffeehouse in Providence, the same year he moved to Cambridge to check out the burgeoning folk scene. He landed gigs at The Sword in the Stone, the Turk’s Head, the Loft, and the Unicorn, where he was also hired to run the open mike, then sweep up the floor afterward. Although Geremia had been writing original songs well before developing any expertise at fingerstyle country blues, he knew a good song when he heard it, and has always included covers by Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, and Blind Blake in his sets. He figures that McTell’s “Statesboro Blues” is the song he’s played more than any other. His first studio album, Just Enough, was produced by Patrick Sky, and released in 1968. His newest, Love My Stuff, a collection of his live performances from the early-1980s through 2007, was released in 2011 on his longtime label Red House Records. He’s also featured in the video “The Guitar Artistry of Paul Geremia: Six and Twelve-String Blues,” as part of a DVD series produced by guitarist Stefan Grossman. Over the years, Geremia has been a favorite of Acoustic Guitar magazine, which has written of him, “He is not only a songwriter who consistently pushes the envelope within the genre (of folk music), he is also a formidable blues and ragtime fingerpicker.” Geremia is on the road regularly, handily switching back and forth from his Gibson J-35 6-string to his converted 12-string Regal guitars. “I have to work, so I play for a living, and that’s all I do,” he said. “And I enjoy it very much.”
(by Ed Symkus)

Published on December 28, 2012