Artist Info

Paul Cotton

Paul Cotton is a country-rock guitarist and singer who has enjoyed a five-decade career in music. Born in 1943, in Fort Rucker, AL, he reached his teens just as rock & roll was dominating the charts. Cotton took up the guitar at age 13, influenced by the music of Les Paul and Duane Eddy, among others, and was good enough at it to aspire to play professionally. He joined his first band at 14, and by 16, living in Illinois, he'd become a member of a Chicago-based outfit called the Capitols. They became Mus Twangs at the start of the 1960s, and cut a surf-style version of the Irving Berlin song "Marie" that was good enough to get picked up for national distribution by Mercury Records. By 1964, the Mus Twangs had started doing a mix of British Invasion and blue-eyed soul repertory, working under the name the Genrys and then the Rovin' Kind. By this time, Cotton was a major influence within the group along with fellow guitarist Kal David -- they complemented each other perfectly, one influenced by country music and early rock & roll, and the other R&B and soul, respectively, and developed a double lead guitar sound that made them increasingly popular in the Chicago area. They recorded on the Dunwich label, best remembered as the home of the Shadows of Knight, and eventually evolved into the Illinois Speed Press. In the latter incarnation, managed by James William Guercio, Cotton and company landed a contract with Columbia Records that yielded two albums and got bookings on the West Coast, as an opening act for the likes of Chicago and Steppenwolf. During this period, they also shared billing with a new country-rock quintet called Poco on several occasions. The Speed Press broke up in 1970, owing to Cotton and David's differing musical interests, and it was then that fate took a hand -- Poco was going through one of what would become frequent personnel changes around the same time, with co-founder Jim Messina announcing his plans to exit the lineup. Co-founder Richie Furay remembered being impressed with Cotton's playing as a member of the Speed Press and approached him, and Cotton became a member of Poco in short order. Most of his work since has been with Poco, apart from a five-year hiatus at the end of the '80s, when the band became inactive. Cotton recorded his first solo album, Changing Horses, during this period. But in the early '90s, he and Rusty Young -- one of the group's co-founders -- reactivated Poco as a working band, which was still going as of 2009. Cotton is known for his powerful sound on the guitar, while Young usually handles the pedal steel and more exotic instruments such as the mandolin. Cotton has also written several songs that are longtime parts of the band's repertory.
Bruce Eder, Rovi

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