Instruments: Vocals, Guitar, Songwriter
Date of Birth: February 26, 1945
Place of Birth: Fort Rucker, Alabama

Paul Cotton first became interested in learning to play the guitar at the age of 13. he begged and begged his folks for a guitar, and finally later that same year he received his first guitar - a $35 Harmony Guitar with a $16 pick-up. It took Paul about one year of daily practice for two hours a day to become proficient enough to join a high school band as a guitarist.

Paul's early guitar influences ranged from Les Paul (first influence) to Duane Eddy. He was also inspired by the lead guitarists on the hit records of that time - most especially James Burton who was with Rick Nelson (later with Elvis), and Scotty Moore (with Elvis).

Paul joined his first band at the age of 14. The band was The Capitols. Paul played guitar but didn't sing with the group. They played at the local South Chicago YMCA, school functions, and private parties. One of the band members in The Capitols was Joseph Schwatner who received a Pulitzer prize in music in 1979 for writing an original piece of music called "Aftertones of Infinity".

The Capitols evolved into The Mus-Twangs. Paul was with this group from around ages 16 to 19. Paul played guitar with this group, but did not sing. Although they had a singer with the group, they were primarily an instrumental band. The Mus-Twangs had an instrumental single released world-wide on Smash Records called "Marie" by Irving Berlin.

When Paul was age 19, the band evolved into The Gentrys. This was the first band that Paul sang with. They performed a lot of Beatles and Righteous Brothers songs. They mostly played at "Under 21" clubs in the Chicago area.

The Gentrys changed their name to The Rovin' Kind because there was a patent on the Gentry name by a group out of Memphis. Kal David joined the group after the name change.

Paul knew Kal David before Kal joined The Rovin' Kind. Kal had previously been leader of a band called The Exceptions, which also included Peter Cetera who went on to join The Big Thing which became CTA, which later became the group Chicago. Another member of Kal's band, The Exceptions was Marty Grebb who went on to join The Buckinghams who were produced by James Guercio. Paul was never a member of The Exceptions.

The Rovin' Kind (including Paul Cotton and Kal David) played the Chicago Whiskey-A-Go-Go. They also played at record hops all over Chicago every weekend. The Rovin' Kind recorded a number of singles on the Dunwich Label that have been passed around on "bootleg".

In 1966 The Rovin' Kind entered a "Battle of the Bands" in which they defeated about 80 bands in front of Dick Clark. One of the songs they performed was an original written by Paul called "Right on Time". Dick Clark flew the band to Los Angeles, and they performed both songs on American Bandstand (on the beach!). The band stayed in Los Angeles for about six weeks. They then went to San Francisco and played at a venue at the San Francisco Airport called "The Tiger". Then it was back to Chicago.

Soon after The Rovin' Kind returned from California, James Guercio discovered the band at the Chicago Whiskey-A-Go-Go. He offered them management and productionand brought them back to Los Angeles where they were signed to CBS/Columbia Records under their new name, Illinois Speed Press.

The Illinois Speed Press were together from 1967 to 1970. They recorded two albums on Columbia, and they performed as the house band for the Whiskey-A-Go-Go in Hollywood, California. They also opened for other major recording acts such as Chicago and Steppenwolf. The Illinois Speed Press broke up in 1970. Kal David wanted to go into a more blues direction, and he left for New York and joined a group called The Fabulous Rhinestones. Paul wanted to go ina more country-rock mode. Kal was into "Hendricks" and Paul was into "Buffalo Springfield". So, they parted ways.

As it turns out, the Illinois Speed Press was an opening act for POCO at a club called The White Room in Buena Park, California shortly before the Speed Press disbanded. POCO was then comprised of Richie Furay, Rusty Young, George Grantham and Jimmy Messina. This is where POCO first saw Paul perform.

Richie Furay approached Paul about joining POCO, and the rest (as they say!) is history!

By Linda Amicarelli in August 1997

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

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