Three Dog Night - Paul Kingery

Question: What do Rick Springfield, Bob Seger, Tiffany, Vanilla Fudge members Tim Bogert, Carmine Appice and Mark Stein and the musical composer of Xena: Warrior Princess all have in common?
Answer: Paul Kingery, that's what. This Detroit-area native is one Swedish Airedale with quite a varied musical pedigree. The versatile singer/bassist/guitarist has had a multi-faceted career, from his early days in Detroit bands through his work backing superstars, to his various stints with Three Dog Night.
In this 2001 interview, Paul discusses the many phases of his long career. We began with a good bit of guitar talk, and pick up the conversation here after Paul talked about purchasing a Fender Squire Telecaster, into which he had inserted aftermarket Seymour Duncan pickups.

Do you like the necks on those Squires, are they pretty good?

This one is.

You just have to find the right one.

You just have to find the right one. And, when you play a bunch of guitars, the right one will eventually tell you it's the right one.

Right; right.

And it's different for everybody, you know. Somebody can wrap his hand around a baseball-sized neck and go, "Ahhh ... This is it." And somebody else is gonna pick up a Gibson "fretless wonder" (Les Paul Custom) thin-neck job, and just be at home.

But you like Teles?

Well, you know, I started with one. And I had it stolen from me, so I've always wanted another one.

Well, you know the Tele that (Michael) Allsup used on the first (TDN) album was stolen.

Ah, it was stolen. I hate that. I despise that. You shouldn't steal anything anyway ... When you're really big, and you're really young, and you're wandering all over the country, and you're perhaps trusting all kinds of people to deal with your gear for you, things can turn up missing.
You know, I had a crew when I was working with Rick Springfield, that spray-painted some Anvil cases with "Rick Springfield." I said, "Why don't you just paint, 'Steal Me," on them?" You know, in big, giant letters. "Take this guitar."

Right (laughs).

Yeah, they did it, of course, to identify the cases when they were all together and traveling around the country, you know.

You know, I always liked those Gretsches he used back then.

Yeah, those were very nice; he found those in New York. Found them on - whatever that is; 46th or "Music Store Row" - yeah, he found them there, and bought a pair of them.

Were those the ones they called the Super Axe?

You know, I'm not sure at the time, because - this would be, like, 1981 - I don't think they were new.

Yeah; that sounds like the Super Axe.

And they weren't all that highly prized; he just liked the way they looked.

Gretsches just have that great, "transparent" sound to them.

Yeah, I've played a couple of 'em. Some Country Gentlemens, and I was actually looking for a White Falcon at one time. There weren't that many of those around, so I never did run across one.

Yeah, that was a rare bird. But they have reissued it.

Yeah, but the prices they're asking for guitars now, Tom, are ridiculous. They're ridiculous! I mean, do you get catalogs?

Yeah (laughs).

Alright. For, just like, regular Stratocasters and regular Telecasters, American-made, you know, they're asking anywhere from $1,200-$1,800. Well, that's ridiculous. Of course, like, 20 years ago, you could walk into Norman's Rare Guitars and buy a '56 for $1,500, you know?

I remember, back when I was in high school, I could have ordered - and this was a new one - a Hofner Beatle Bass for $180.

Right. Everybody's got those stories. I bought, #0596 Fender Stratocaster, I had that for a long time. I bought it for $250, sold it for $500, thought I did great, and then moved to California and discovered it was worth about $1,500 (laughs). And discovered that I never should have sold it in the first place.

So, did you start out with guitar?

Yeah, that's my main instrument; that was all I ever played, really.

And how old were you then?

Probably about ten or 11.

So, who was it that you saw or heard and said, "I want to do that."

You know, I saw one hanging up in a trading post, and at the time I think I was ten. It was getting down to whether it was either study martial arts or take guitar. And I decided to take guitar, so there really wasn't anybody yet that had me goin', "Gee, I want to do that." You know, I just wanted to do that. I started plinkin' on my grandpa's piano when I was three, so something was always there.
But, the Beatles were the first really big thing where you just wanna go out and do what they do. Although they weren't my favorite band - the Stones were.

I see.

But, a couple of friends and I got guitars and we started off playing some of the instrumental tunes, like there was a song called "Car Hop," I think it was by the Exports. And we had matching Sears Silvertone guitars with the amps in the case.

Right; I remember those.

That was my first good guitar; before that, I put a microphone from a little tape recorder into the soundhole of an acoustic guitar, and that's how I amplified that.

Yeah, that old double-cutaway Silvertone, with the six-inline (tuners) on that massive headstock ...

Yep, six in line on a big headstock ...

Mother-of-toilet-seat pickguard.

(Laughs) Black sparkle paint job. And the speaker and the amp in the case. I would put it on the handlebars of my bike and ride over to my friend's house. I had to repair the handle of that (case) three or four times (laughs), 'cause you'd be riding along, holding it by the handle, with one hand, and holding the handlebars of the bike with the other hand.

What was the first good guitar after the Silvertone?

That was a Telecaster. I worked at a gas station and saved up the money for that ... and I went to Capitol Music and Sound, here in Detroit, and picked an ash blonde Telecaster off the wall for $214.

Maple neck ...

Maple neck; you could see the grain of the wood through the finish.

Three saddle bridge ...

Three saddle bridge. So, that would have been, 1965.

Well, that was about the time that the Yardbirds came along here, and Clapton was playing a Tele.

Yeah. Yeah! Although, I just really liked it. I took some guitar lessons for awhile, but it's only so long before you want to learn something else (laughs). One of my instructors, actually, was Joe LaDuca, who actually did (the music) for Hercules and Xena and The Jack Of Hearts.

So, when was the first band?

Let me see if it had a name ... Oh, yeah! The first band was the Trespassers. We had a drummer that looked a lot like Ringo, and we wore these matching, big wide-striped T-shirts. The two, sorta, fratty kinda guys wore brown stripes, and the two sorta greasy guys - which was my friend Wally and I - wore black stripes.
And I started another band later that won a little "Battle Of The Bands" locally, but I forget the name of that one. I finally got a decent amp, and ran my Tele through a (Fender) Bassman head and cabinet, and a Maestro fuzz tone, and I was there, man, I was in (laughs).

(Courtesy Paul Kingery)

What happened after that?

I played a lot, into high school, just doin' the gigs whenever they came up. And in high school, I started my first real serious, recording band, and that was called the Assemblage. Actually, it was the Stuart Avery Assemblage, and then it got shortened to the Assemblage. Stuart was the singer. That was a cross between the Rolling Stones and Jackie Lomax.

Interesting little bridge there.

Yeah, and we financed our own album and got it released on a major label, and regionally we had a Top 10 hit with a reworked version of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."

When was this?

The album came out about '70 or '71, but the band started in '68. We started playing a lot of Grande Ballroom (NOTE: Legendary Detroit concert venue - T.W.) dates. As a matter of fact, on a lot of that really highly prized (concert poster) artwork that's out there now, we played with the Yardbirds, opened for the Yardbirds. And Spirit and Fever Tree ... But we played the Grande quite a bit, and I went there all the time, to see shows. We played there frequently, and it was lots of fun.

What was it about that area that made it such a hotbed of music? Mitch Ryder came from there, the Sunliners - who became Rare Earth - came out of that area, Bob Seger, and Grand Funk, and Tommy James, and the MC5 and whoever else ...

The Stooges, Teegarden and Van Winkle, Alice Cooper - he wasn't from there but he made it big here - and it really launched J. Geils as well. I guess great audiences, a real need to escape your everyday routine, and music was a great way to do it. As opposed to video games and movies and all the things that kids are doing now, you know. Music really was the way to do it.
There were clubs everywhere - there still are - but there were clubs everywhere, and you could go out and play pretty much all the time. We did that a lot - the Assemblage did - and eventually the guys decided that I was a better singer than Stuart (laughs). And they said, "Why don't you do it?" So, the last version of the band had Robin Robbins - who went on to play with Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band - on keyboards, and a very fine drummer and singer by the name of George Spanos, who moved to L.A. and became Danny Spanos, and put several albums out. And I wound up getting signed by (producer) Punch Andrews, who managed Bob Seger. So, I would up putting out some singles under the name "Stretch Thomas."

"Stretch Thomas?!?!"

Yeah (laughs). There's still an album by the Assemblage out there, on Westbound Records, which nobody can probably find anywhere (laughs), that's actually pretty good. And, I think I co-wrote four of the tunes on that thing.

But, just a minute here, where did "Stretch Thomas" come from?

It came from the clock, Seth Thomas. Because I was 6'1", someone used to jokingly refer to me as "Stretch." I wasn't that tall, actually, but it kinda stuck, at the time. So, I think I only put out one single as "Stretch Thomas," and then there's a bunch of other material in the can.

That will stay there, I guess.

Probably, yeah (laughs). Most of it is in Punch's possession.

And, after Stretch Thomas, there was ...

I joined a few different bar bands, because my writing wasn't quite up to snuff at the time, and the material I was cutting with Punch tended to be songs that Bob wasn't using. And it was actually during this time that I cut (Ike and Tina Turner's) "Nutbush City Limits," which wound up on Seger's Beautiful Loser album. And, I actually played guitar on "Travelin' Man," but the (album jacket) was already printed, so I didn't get credit on it.

So, where did you go in the disco years?

Well, in the disco years I had a great band called Air Condo, which was short for Air Conditioning. 'Cause, you know, what is music but conditioning the air? And our little amount of air was 50,000 BTUs of funk (laughs). That was a great band, though. It has its own website and is still selling CDs. Matter of fact, I played with that band, or several members of it, last night at a festival.

Are they still conditioning?

They're still conditioning. Yeah; they're some really fine players.

(Courtesy Paul Kingery)


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