Home » Musicians » Paul Clemente » Biography
Paul Clemente - Biography

Paul ClementeB: January 19, 1910 - Worcester, MA
D: February 2, 2007 - Quincy, MA
Instruments: Bass, Banjo

Undoubtedly, Paul Clemente was one of the very first white jazz musicians to come out of Worcester, MA. At age 94, he was still performing occasionally, and practicing daily, and believed that "that there is always more to learn about life through music".  

The eldest son of Italian immigrants Matteo Clemente and Raffaella (Tomaiolo) Clemente, Paul Clemente was born on January 19, 1910 in the Italian district in Worcester, MA. From an early age he had musical influences. Many of his relatives played instruments for ethnic or religious gatherings. (see Photo Gallery)  

His first instrument was violin, but eventually he gravitated toward the ukulele at an early age. He later settled on banjo and guitar as his preferred instruments. For his young son Paul, Matteo Clemente was able to arrange banjo lessons with another member of the Italian community, Joe Tuscano. Later, Paul began a serious course of study on the guitar with Cosmo Lomatieri (known as Ned Cosmo), a well known Central MA musician who played with a "society band" called Ed Murphy and his Bohemians in the 1920's.

Paul's father, Matteo, owned a small Italian restaurant called The Vesuvio in which there was a juke box which contained the latest recordings of Louis Armstrong, Joe Oliver, Jellyroll Morton, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, Bix Beiderbecke as well as other Dixieland style ensembles. These were, of course, mixed in with the Italian vocal recordings. The owner of the juke box showed Paul the location of a special switch which allowed for a song to be played without having to place a coin into the machine. Paul, and his younger brother Pete, also a guitarist, transcribed and memorized many jazz solos by Django Reinhardt, Eddie Lang, Louis Armstrong and many others by repeatedly playing these newly released recordings. Both Paul and Pete would entertain customers in the restaurant, giving the two aspiring young musicians an outlet for their music with the blessing of their father.

In 1927, Paul Clemente formed his own group which he called "Clem's Commodores" with John Lescoe (coronet), Leo Quercio (alto saxophone), Paul Mandella (piano), Joe Nuzzolillo (drums), and Paul himself on banjo, guitar and vocals. Paul was completely taken with Louis Armstrong and wholly embraced his approach to rhythm and relaxed, lyrical improvisation.

Clem's Commodores played primarily the new "hot", Dixieland music of this period, with a heavy emphasis on improvisation and self-styled arrangements. This group of young musicians enjoyed an active performance schedule, playing for dancers at the Arcadia Ballroom (Green St., Worcester, MA), Danny Duggan's Ballroom (Chatham St., Worcester, MA), the White City Ballroom (Shrewsbury, MA), Merry Jim's Pavilion (see Photo Gallery for Nov.24,1932 poster) and many other area night spots.

In the early 1930's, Paul Clemente began a more professional career when he joined the David "Dud" Goldman band. Here, he played his newly purchased Gibson L5 guitar. The band played strictly "society" band music and no jazz which became a source of frustration for the young Clemente. He later bought a "National" brand metal guitar, which were somewhat poplar in this time period. What these instruments lacked in tone quality, they more than made up for in volume!

From 1933 to 1935, Clemente played with the Hughie Connor Big Band at the Riverview Ballroom in Neponset. (see Photo Gallery) For this steady engagement, he left Worcester and rented a room in North Quincy, MA. It was here that he met his wife, Elsie Alden, whom he married in 1937. She was a professional dancer at that time. (see Photo Gallery)

In 1935, Paul Clemente joined the Hughie Barrett Band. Barrett was a bass player out of Syracuse, NY. who had many connections for upscale performance venues. Barret's experience came from playing in many bands from NYC and with the Dave Rubinoff Orchestra.

Late in 1935, Clemente began playing with the Jimmy McHale Band at the Westminster Roof Hotel in Boston. The band later moved to the Brown Derby in 1937. At that time, Clemente was asked to switch from guitar to double bass. Ever since, he has played bass professionally. From June to October of 1938, Clemente played with the McHale band at a hotel in Ohio for six months (a time during which his first child, Carol, was born).

He In 1941, Clemente began playing on the syndicated Yankee Radio Network with the "Flufferettes" from the WNAC Radio studio, Cambridge, MA.  

Paul Clemente began working regularly with the Bob Allen Big Band from New Jersey in 1942 and traveled extensively, touring the South. The band featured vocalist Paula Kelley. The Bob Allen Band began live broadcasts from Central Park on WNYC in New York. While in NYC he played in the Cafe Mardi Gras on 7th Ave. and at the Moulin Rouge.

Clemente decided to fulfill a life long dream of getting to New Orleans. He lived in the city for three months in 1943.

1944 marked a big change for him when he formed the extremely successful Paul Clement Trio. The group featured Paul Clement (Paul Clemente) on Bass, Leon Carl (Leo DeCarlo) on piano and Roland Moore on Vibraphone. Moore was later replaced by Lou Magnano on vibraphone. This ensemble played sophisticated jazz vocal and instrumental arrangements and was very popular due to its high level of musicianship and inspired improvisations. The group was signed by the William Morris Booking Agency in 1945 (see Photo Gallery). As early as 1948, the trio was listed in the Billboard Charts for new releases on the Crystal Tone Label.  

The Paul Clement Trio was fortunate enough to land steady employment at the Old Town Hall Inn in East Hartford, CT from 1949 to 1953. They played there six nights a week and were broadcast live on radio from this venue nightly. (see Audio Section) This extremely popular group was recognized by many musicians and critics during their stay. "Some 20 acts representing show business in key American cities paid tribute to the Paul Clement Trio last night on the occasion of the musical group's fourth year at the Parisian Room of the Old Town Inn. Numerous personalities travelled hundreds of miles to do their bit in the greatest show ever presented at Larry Simon's nightspot". (Hartford Times, May, 1953)

The trio remained there until 1953 when interstate highway 95 opened, which changed driving routes and forced traffic away from the Inn, causing it to eventually close in 1953.

Undaunted, the Paul Clement Trio relocated to Boston and played the Copley Plaza and the "1 2 3 Lounge" and many other high profile Boston night spots. They also had a six month stay at the Sheraton Plaza and another six months at the Darby Room, both in Boston. On August 4, 1954 the trio moved into the Windmill Inn in Groton, CT. In the mid-1950's, the Paul Clement Trio played live broadcasts each Tuesday and Thursday from 11:00-11:30 p.m. on radio station WTAG in Worcester, MA.  

However, the music scene changed rapidly in the late 1950's. In 1955, Paul Clemente opened a short-lived restaurant (4 years) in Quincy, MA and called it "The Brick Oven". He decided to leave the music business, disbanding the Trio. He and his wife Elsie had four children at that time: Carol, Paul, Jr., Valerie and Karen. He played occasionally at the Kenmore in Boston beginning on February 29, 1960.  

He eventually returned to music full time in 1969 where his primary focus was teaching guitar, banjo, bass and improvisation while remaining an active performer.

In 1986 he played banjo with the Boston Concert Orchestra for a performance of Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" in Symphony Hall, and maintained an active solo career. In 1988 he was the subject of at least two feature aticles (Worcester Telegram and Gazette: "Close Up" by Sibyl Farson; and The Patriot Ledger: "Senior's Corner" by Pauline Pyle). (see Photo Gallery)

While usually playing solo, Paul Clement sometimes augmented his act called "Nantucket Sound" with Pee Wee Paquin on bass, playing what Clemente liked to call "swing tunes and Americana".

As recently as 1996 he formed a new group called Cap'n Clem's Riverboat Band, but also continued solo performances in the North East and in Florida.

Remarkably, even at age 94, he still performed occasionally and practiced most everyday. He believed that it was music that has kept him in good health through the years, exploring his instruments daily and keeping his mind and body young.

Paul Clemente was a gifted storyteller and world class musician, well loved by everyone with whom he shared his beautiful and hip music.

The Clemente family today boasts many professional musicians. Paul's brother Peter Clemente Sr., also a gifted guitarist, has been teaching and performing in Central MA for over 50 years. He is founder of Clemente Music, 43 Granite Street, Worcester, MA. Peter is married to Leona (Sawyer) Clemente, a classical singer. Paul's daughter, Valerie Clemente has performed and taught professionally in Los Angeles, CA and Nashville, TN for more than 25 years. Paul's extended family includes nieces and nephews who are extremely active musicians: classical guitarist and Assumption College faculty member Peter Clemente, Jr.; church and concert organist and choir director Lucia Clemente Falco (who is married to jazz guitarist Rich Falco, Director of Jazz Studies at WPI); jazz guitarist and Berklee faculty member Jack Pezanelli; and singer Lorna Pezanelli.

 

SOURCES:
"Around Town" Column. Braintree Forum. 28 July 1928
The Beacon. 16 March 1989.
Boston Daily Globe. 5 April 1953
Boston Daily Record. 3 March 1939
Boston Sunday Advertiser. 29 Nov. 1953
Clemente, Paul Jr. Personal Interview. Telephone. 8 March 2004 and 19 March 2004
Clemente, Paul Sr. and Elsie (ALDEN) Clemente. Personal Interview. Worcester, MA. 26 Nov. 2003
Clemente, Peter. Personal Interview. Worcester, MA. 26 Oct. 2003 and Nov. 9 2003
Farson, Sibyl "Close Up" Column. Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 1988
Laing, Olive. Braintree Observer. 13 Feb. 1979
Niles, Charles. "Fanfare" column. Hartford Daily News
Pyle, Pauline. "Senior's Corner". Patriot Ledger. 6 Sept. 1988
Poster. "Basin Boys" with Paul Clemente at the Kenmore. February 29, 1960
Poster. "Merry Jim's Pavillion". 24 Nov. 1932. Springfield MA
Simon, George. The Big Bands. New York. Schimer. 1981
Southwich, Albert B. Once-Told Tales of Worcester County. Worcester, MA: Worcester Telegram and Gazette
"The Billboard Music Popularity Charts". The Billboard. 28 Feb. 1948
"The Greatest Show Ever Presented". Hartford Times. May, 1953
Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 20 July 1989
Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 28 July 1989

 

DISCOGRAPHY:
1941 series of live broadcasts syndicated on Yankee Radio Network from WNAC Cambridge, MA.
1942-43 with Bob Allen Orchestra.
1943 Broadcast with WNYC, New York, NY.
Recordings provided by Peter Clemente (brother of Paul Clemente). Used by permission.

 

PHOTOS:
Photos provided by and Paul Clemente Jr. and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Used by permission.

A special thank you to Peter Clemente, brother of Paul Clemente and to Paul Clemente, Jr. for their generous contributions to this article.