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Philip Paul, legendary drummer who created beat for 'The Twist,' dead at age 96

Cincinnati drummer dies
Philip Paul
Posted at 8:42 PM, Jan 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-01 22:45:04-05

CINCINNATI — Philip Paul, a drummer who was on the original recordings of popular songs like "Fever" and "Please Come Home for Christmas," has died.

Tom Schneider, pianist for The Philip Paul Trio, confirmed Paul died of COVID-19 Sunday night. He was 96.

Though well into his nineties, the musician who helped make jazz what it is today continued to play the drums long after performing with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie at Cincinnati's Cotton Club or The Apollo in New York City. On his 95th birthday, he celebrated with a performance at the Symphony Hotel and Restaurant.

Born in Harlem in 1925, Paul said his parents rented drums for him after his father noticed his habit of drumming random items.

“My father was a musician too. We'd go to the music store to get something he might need, and I'd have spoons, knives, forks and pick up anything that I could bang on the tables and play," Paul said. “Here I am years later, and I'm still playing the drums."

Paul is credited with creating the beat for "The Twist," playing on the original recording by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. In addition to his work on Little Willie John's "Fever" and Charles Brown's "Please Come Home for Christmas," Paul was on the original recordings for nearly every song by Freddie King, considered one of the "Three Kings of the Blues Guitar."

A member of the Cincinnati Jazz Hall of Fame, Paul and his wife, Juanita, were honored at the Rock and Roll of Fame and Museum as part of its "From Songwriters to Soundmen: The People Behind the Hits" presentation.

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