Paula Harris

Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page

paula harris band“If Etta James fronted the Tower of Power- and they were a blues band- THAT is what Paula Harris sounds like!” That's not a bad way to be described when you're a mid forties musician that most people told to "give up". Paula has shown a remarkable belief in her talent and has followed her dream, even against the odds. and it's a good thing because she has blazed into the Blues Scene like a meteor! Currently nominated for "Best New Artist" with the Blues Music Awards, She also won the Monterey Blues Featival's "Battle of the Bands last November as a warm up to representing the San Francisco Bay Area in the International Blues Challenge, (Held in Memphis, TN) where she placed in the Top Three Best Bands in the World-wide Competition. That was after receiving standing ovations at all stages of the competition. Though new to the Blues, Paula had already made a name for herself in the Jazz Community when she worked for two years as the resident vocalist at San Francisco's Iconic Venue "Top of the Mark" With Grammy and People's Choice Nominee-Ricardo Scales.
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Paula, a Native of South Carolina, is also a classically trained vocalist. But with a style that is obviously influenced by the likes of Etta James, Diane Schuur, Gladys Knight, Lydia Pense and Aretha Franklin- it was only natural for her to gravitate towards the genre’s of Blues, Jazz and Soul. While most vocalists who cross genres tend to choose songs that fall in the middle ground between them, Paula’s astonishing versatility allows her to sing the full spectrum of all three.

With a stage presence that is undeniable and an immediate connection with her audience, Paula's Background in musical theater is readily apparent. She may just be making her mark in Blues- but she has been in the music industry for two decades. Her first professional job was in an 800 seat theater facility in Myrtle Beach that ran nightly shows where Paula was a featured cast member and vocalist.
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Paula also worked with several symphony orchestras while Living in South Carolina and Georgia including her first symphonic performance with the “Long Bay Symphony”. When Paula relocated to Atlanta, Georgia in 1995, she signed with blues legend William Bell (formerly of Stax records) and his production company-“Wilbe Records”. During this time she also fronted the Atlanta Pops Symphony Orchestra under legendary director Albert Coleman for the yearly “Concert in the Park” series. This was a three-month educational series performed in various towns throughout the metro Atlanta area that was designed to promote the American Jazz and Blues Standards to all ages. She also served a decade as the front person for one of the oldest and most established musical organizations in Georgia with the Carere Orchestras.
Paula now resides in San Francisco and can be seen performing her blend of impudent humorous Blues, original lyrics, and dance-able rhythms with her band of world class musicians, “The Beasts of Blues”! Her horn section is known as the “Big Ass Brass”. They released their debut album in June 2012 and are receiving wonderful reviews and radio exposure world-wide. Their shows are as exciting to watch as their music is to hear, explaining why they consistently sell out shows when they perform. This band has been called the “Hottest Thing to Hit the Blues scene in years!” Popularity such as this proves that it’s never too late to do something you love! Paula welcomes your interaction- you can reach her at
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Derrick "D'Mar" Martin- Drums
​ D'Mar is more than a drummer- he is a TRUE showman. Highly sought after for his live performances, D'mar has played drums professionally for more than twenty years. He has toured with Little Richard for the last sixteen years. He has also worked with Dorothy Moore, Chuck Berry, Dennis Lasalle, Bobby Rush, Tu Tu Jones, Hubert Summlin, Honeyboy Edwards, The Williams Brothers, Jody Williams, Muzz Skillings, Big Jack Johnson, Eddie Cotton, Gary Brown , Henry Butler, Maria Muldaur & Mark Hummel, to name a few.

He is as much in demand for his session work as he is for his live performances. D'Mar has recorded with many of the acts mentioned as well as numerous others.

​​D'Mar has appeared on The Tonite Show, David Letterman, Jerry Lewis Telethon, The Majic Hour, The Howie Mandel Show, The RuPaul Show, The Wayne Brady Show & The Closing Ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, GA.

​​ Also an educator, D'mar's "Drums & More" program is becoming one of the most acclaimed music education programs in the country.

​​Above all D'Mar lays down a groove that is full of love, light and energy. He truly LOVES to play and that energy is infectious to both his band members and his audience!

Guitar- Terry Hiatt
The San Francisco Bay Area is a hotbed of wonderful musicians. But in this Mecca of players- Terry Hiatt is hailed by his peers as "One of the Most Outstanding Guitarists". He is truly a " Guitar Player's Player". Many consider him to be the Bay Area's "Undiscovered Secret." Well versed in a multitude of styles and genres , he has really forged a name for himself with his unsurpassed blues interpretation. Terry has also developed a following in his own right that is as strong as many national and International Touring headliners.

Terry has worked and recorded with some of the biggest names in both the Bay Area and Blues Communities. He is a regular session guitar player for Sista Monica Parker (2011 Blues Music Award nominee). Terry has also worked with Tommy Castro, Chris Cain and many others. He is one of the most in demand players in Northern California.

​​ His reputation for getting an audience excited and impressing everyone with his one-of-a-kind licks are the starting point for Paula's unique blues style. He also serves as the musical director for the "Beasts of Blues"

Bass, Background Vocals- Joey Fabian
Bassist Joey Fabian is originally from Atlanta, Georgia where he performed with members of the Atlanta Rhythm Section, Sea Level, Glenn Phillips Band, and was a founding member of Progressive group "Man On Fire". Joey relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1991 and studied with World-Renowned bassists Kai Eckhardt and Dean Peer.

Accomplished on both electric and upright acoustic, Joey has performed almost every concievable genre of music from Soukous to Samba-Reggae and Blues to Bluegrass. Joey has also performed or recorded with Alana Davis, Will Ray (The Hellecasters), Mumblefinger, Taylor P. Collins, Scott Matthews, James Armstrong and many more. He was a member of the critically acclaimed fusion ensemble The Bartron Tyler Group. He now has an unusual pet project "Zappagrass" (bluegrass arrangements of Frank Zappa songs)

Joey in also known for his uniquely animated stage presence. His Energy while playing is exceptionally entertaining and quite an asset to any live performance. Paula the the other often kid him about the way "He makes love to his Bass" on stage.

SInce 1994, Joey has been the Bass instructor at Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto, CA . He also runs a production studio called "The Tomato Farm" in Menlo Park CA.

Joey is proud to be endorsed by Fender/SWR, Human Base Basses and Daring Audio Bass Effects.​

Piano, Rhodes and Background Vocals-Simon Russell
​​​Simon has been in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1983 and is also hailed by his peers as "One of the Best." He learned the great art of performance & musicality from a number of local legends. One of the most influencial musical figures in Simon's career was the multi-instrumentalist Rafael Grinage ( bass player for Earl Fatha Hines and Odetta). He taught Simon that "no note should be wasted! Make every note count or be silent!" Those words have stayed with Simon all of his career. And his tasteful on point runs and improvisation add a delicious jazzy feel to much of Paula's Music. He also pulls in a strong gospel feel on many of the songs he has arranged for her. In Paula's words "He swings harder than any player I've met"

As a musician Simon had the great honor of performing with The James Brown Band, Pete Escovedo, David Grissom, Zakiya Hooker, Tommy Castro, Elvin Bishop, Curtis Lawson and Beverly Stoval.

He is as well known for his Smokey soulful vocal ability as he is his playing. He appears regularly with his own Band "Groovality"

"I regard Simon Russell as a major force in today's music industry. If you are not familiar with him today,.. tomorrow you'll realize that his voice, melodic application and soulful delivery has always had a hauntingly familiar quality that places him right along side history's greatest musical legends. The first time I witnessed a live performance, I new this was inevitable. I have since had the pleasure to work with Simon both in the studio and on stage. Inevitable indeed, and after hearing only a small sample of some of his new material I can confidently predict that the time is near."

-- Stephen Sea
Film / Television / Multimedia

Mike Rinta- Trombone, Leader Brass Section

Mike is the brass section leader for Paula. He is the first call musician in the bay area for trombone. Mic Gillette from Tower of Power even cites Mike as " His first call" There isn't much higher of a compliment. Mike is known not only for his great playing- but for his passion and sense of fun while he's at it. That energy really transmits to his audience.

The people Mike has worked with is literally a "Who's who" in the music industry so we'll let it do the talking for us: ​​Sly & The Family Stone, Carlos Santana, George Santana, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, Larry Coryell, Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead), Bob Weir (Grateful Dead), Howard Tate, Lennie Willams, Lester Chambers, Otis Clay, Fred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis, Bernie Worrell (Parliament), Paul Shaffer, John Lee Hooker Jr., Narada Michael Walden, Elvin Bishop, Clarence Clemens, Mighty Sam McClain, Pine Top Perkins, EC Scott, Bing & The Bingtones, Henry Butler, Mable John, Bishop Joe Simon, Chris Clark, The Dynatones, Carl Lockett, Tommy Castro, Daniel Castro, Sir Mac Rice, Robert Lockwood Jr., Syl Johnson, Joe Henderson, Pharaoh Sanders, John Lee Sanders, Chuck Mangione, Harvey Mandel, Sy Klopps Blues Band, Ross Valory (Journey), Neil Schon (Journey), Pete Sears (Jefferson Airplane), Tom Johnston (The Doobie Brothers), The Coup, Michelle Shocked, Bobby Caldwell, Patty Paige, Kay Starr, & Bette Lavette.

Mike is also as well known in the industry for his wonderful skills as an arranger as he is for his unique playing and stage presence.

Tom Poole-Trumpet

Tom Poole has literally worked with so many big names that he can't remember them all. But he is one of the most prolific recording and gigging horn players in the U.S. and he has been for more than FOUR decades!

He was with the legendary Etta James for a decade where he garnered a Grammy Win and multiple Grammy Nominations for his work on her various albums. He also worked a five year stone with equally legendary Bobby Womak. Tom was a member of the original Boz Scaggs Band and on his Album "Boz Scaggs & Band" He was likewise a founding member of the original "Santa Esmeralda" band with Jimmy Goings. They have sold over twenty five million albums worldwide.

Tom has also worked with heavy hitters like Billy Preston, Percy Sledge, Barbara Lewis, Elvin Bishop, Tommy Castro, Greg Allman, Dr John, Van Morrison, The Drifters, The Coasters, The Shirelles, The Marvelettes, Mary Wells, Martha Reeves, Al WIlson, Sam Moore, Freda Payne, The Dixie Cups, Irma Thomas, John Lee hooker Jr, Joey Gilmore, Michael Burks, John Nemeth and the original "Malo" Band. And these were just the ones that popped into his head in an instant when questioned about it. He is truly legendary!

Tom is one of the featured horns on Paula's new Album "Turning on the Naughty"

Tony Peebles is a busy saxophonist, currently residing in Oakland, California. He is a relative newcomer compared to the other brass members but only by virtue of his youth. And he has commanded respect from veteran players across the board.

He has performed in many different genres with such artists as Fred Wesley (James Brown), Karl Denson, Don Carlos, Lenny Williams, Prince "Blkmagic" Damons, Wil Blades, Andy Bey, Nnenna Freelon, Geri Allen, Oliver Lake, Brian Jordan (KDTU), John Lee Hooker Jr., Karl Perazzo, and Antoine Roney to name a few.

Tony is currently saxophonist for reggae legend Don Carlos, and plays regularly with former Tower of Power frontman Lenny Williams.

He has studied saxophone under just a few teachers: Chris Farr (John Legend), Ben Schachter, and Joe Cohen, but is a constant student of the instrument, working daily to improve his craft. He holds a BA in Music Theory from the University of Pennsylvania, and a MM in Jazz Saxophone Performance from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.paula harris bandpaula harris band

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