LA130 Interview: Reverend Paul Exkano (LA130Abbott_Side1)
Side 1: Interview with Reverend Paul Exkano on 1986-07-11. Abstract for Exkano: [00:00-47:01] Rev. Paul Exkano describes his youth in the schools and churches of the Gert Town neighborhood of New Orleans and how he organized a quartet as a schoolboy, singing whenever the teacher left the room. He describes his time directing the choir at King Solomon Baptist Church and how from that choir, he, along with Albert Veal and Sam Tophia, formed a quartet, The Humming Four – 3:38. He discusses winning a singing contest against the Soproco Singers and eventually leaving The Humming Four to join the Soproco Singers – 5:20. Exkano recalls that The Birmingham Jubilees were the first quartet he ever heard and remembers meeting Gilbert Porterfield and Sandy Newell, who had worked extensively with quartets in Alabama – 7:11. He describes how he learned shape notes and became so skilled that he began teaching them to other quartets – 8:03. He details touring throughout Alabama and Mississippi and the process of writing and arranging songs, which was often quite lengthy – 9:55. Exkano mentions his work building roads and later as a carpenter for the WPA and eventually finding work at an automobile company – 13:25. He recalls singing with Mahalia Jackson's sister, Yvonne, and that Mahalia would bring the Soproco Singers up to Chicago every year. Exkano also says that the Soproco Singers introduced red beans and rice to Chicago – 15:14. Exkano describes attending both Baptist and Methodist churches as a boy, becoming a pastor at age 17, and the influence of his father, who was a musician and a preacher – 17:10. He fondly recalls his family home-brewing liquor and selling catfish dinners to fundraise for the church – 20:30. He discusses various preachers that he knew and his baptism in the Baptist Church – 22:25. Exkano states that his quartet was one of the best, and he discusses the process of "gospelizing" the music, going on to mention several preachers who inspired him – 25:00. He recalls his experience attending and performing at revivals by the dynamic Elder Utah Smith – 28:20. Exkano speaks about other local quartets, how they influenced each other, members who came and went from the groups, and his extensive cross-country travels – 32:00. Exkano details his first encounter with the singing group that would become the Blind Boys of Alabama, and how he became their lead singer and manager – 39:22. [0:00-45:31] On LA130Abbott_Side2 Exkano continues his discussions of the roots of the Blind Boys and their revolutionary musicianship. He describes being asked to fill in as a vocalist on another group's recording at Coleman Records – 2:08. Responding to a question from Abbott, Exkano details the group's first recording sessions at Coleman Records, including the difficulty of working with blind musicians, and he lauds the work of the Coleman Brothers – 4:19. Exkano talks about the group's initial success in the Northeast U.S., how they earned much money from their shows, and other singing groups they worked with – 7:04. Exkano details how he closely guided the Blind Boys musically and financially, and in life lessons and daily functioning, often caring for them as if they were his own children – 13:16. He explains that he could have taken advantage of the group as others had done, but he loved and respected them, which led the Lord to bless him throughout his life – 16:46. Exkano recalls composing a song with the group on a car ride and how everyone was involved in choosing the songs they performed and recorded – 19:54. Exkano discusses the group's recordings with Palda Records and the band's financial success – 21:00. He talks about the group making a recording without his knowledge, their desire to move in a different direction, and their resentment of the way he kept the group members away from vices, which eventually led to Exkano's departure from the Blind Boys and his return to preaching – 24:50. Exkano details his travels across the south as a preacher at various churches, including an encounter with the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi – 29:21. Abbott and Exkano wrap up their talk with a few final thoughts on Exkano's experiences with the Blind Boys – 35:21.