Paul Thorn


Every so often, we get a letter from a listener complaining about the overabundance of singer-songwriters on the program. Here is an excerpt from one of my favorites:

Dear Bob,

I look forward to the variety and wisdom of your program. As much as that is so, I do not look forward to the singer-songwriter segments you present; ..... just as television fills time it otherwise know not what to do with by bringing in minor celebrities to cook on camera, so does radio call upon two-bit singer/songwriters to blather endless faux sociological explanations of the trivia they try to sing about.

Just for the enlightenment of all the NPR, PRI and XM intellectuals (if the shoe fits...?) who don't know an augmented fifth from a large bottle of Jack Daniels, songwriting must be the easiest and craftiest of all the crafts on earth in which one can indulge him/herself. . . And to carelessly apply the term 'artist' to any disheveled, failed poet who disguises his/her inadequate verbal offerings in repetitive plinky-plunk mediocrities of musical notes is to insult those, living and dead, who are or were musicians and lyricists.

It is a sad sign of our times that for every poor excuse for a comedian and 'musician' who appears on national television and radio, one can find at least one truly talented and creative (and underappreciated) comedian and MUSICIAN in any high school inthe United States of America.

Otherwise, please keep up the good work!

A listener from KY

Well, I apologize ahead of time, Listener from Kentucky, but today you’ll be getting another one. His name is Paul Thorn. And even if you don’t like his music, I’ll be very surprised if you don’t like his stories. Some of the best are the ones about the things Paul did before he was making a living as a musician: tambourine gig at his dad’s tent revivals, McDonald’s fry guy, professional boxer. As you’ll hear in the interview, Paul was a pretty good boxer. In 1987, he went seven rounds against three-time world champ, Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran, in a nationally-televised fight. Paul lost, but the headline in the New York Post the next day was “Duran Survives Bloodbath.”

You can watch the fight here.

Paul Thorn and Bob talked for more than an hour, and we had to edit down about a fourth of their conversation to make room for David Broder. One part that made me sad to cut was Paul talking about his fourteen-year-old daughter Kit, who wants to follow in her dad’s footsteps. There’s a gem of a clip of Paul performing one of his songs with Kit. She plays the clarinet like a champ, but her voice is super-impressive, too. The song is about someone Paul knows. . . the story is true but her name has been changed.

Paul Thorn sings Joanie, The Jehovah Witness Stripper with his daughter, Kit, at the New Daisy Theatre in Memphis, watch it here.

I will admit that we do have our fair share of singer-songwriters on this program, generally Southern. One of the reasons, as Paul Thorn proves, is that they are almost always guaranteed to be good talkers. And that makes good radio.

If you want to know more about Paul Thorn, check out his website. That’s also where you can see some of his Howard Finster-inspired art.