February 8, 2020 11:15:09 PM
Chances are if you've paid any attention to the music scene in these parts, you know the name Paul Thorn.
A singer-songwriter who lives south of Tupelo, Thorn has released more than a dozen CDs and tours the U.S. and in Europe. Locally he's played the Princess Theater, Market Street Festival, the Columbus Arts Council and most recently in October, Steve and Kay Ellises' Barn House Concert Series.
As far as notoriety Paul falls into that rarefied category of fandom enjoyed by Lucinda Williams and maybe even John Prine. You either know and love his music or you've never heard of him.
Anyone who has seen Paul in concert will attest to his brilliance as an improviser and his ability to connect with his audience. His lyrics are clever and funny and often profound.
I got no more patience, I got no more time
I'm tired of following orders, sticking to the company line
I want to change the world and I'm starting with myself
A private revelation concerning everybody else
We're all just lonely people; we're all looking for some help
Too busy crunching numbers and fighting for ourselves
All it takes is kindness and a little love and care
And this planet that we live on can be a Heaven we can share ...
-- "Mission Statement," Paul Thorn, 1998
Thorn has used the long hours spent on his tour bus between gigs to become an accomplished visual artist. The subject matter of his paintings and drawings mirrors that of his music: love, true and otherwise; Walmart and trailer park culture and Bible-thumping fundamentalist preachers.
Some of his art is collected in a book titled "Pimps and Preachers."
Anyone who has seen Paul in concert will attest to his love of daytime television, about which he is unapologetic. It continues to be for him a rich source of material.
"Our television when I was a kid had three channels, 9, 4 and 27, the educational channel," he said.
"I had the cartoons I watched from 7 o'clock to noon, then the wrestling would come on out of Memphis. I can't remember exactly when Uncle Bunky came on, but I was glued to him when he came on."
Uncle Bunky (Williams), for the two people reading this who don't know the name, hosted Fun Time years ago, a children's show on WCBI-TV during which he would show cartoons and draw "crazy animals" for his young guests.
Later Bunky worked with the sheriff's department often using his art to connect with abused children.
"You know what I really like?" said Thorn. "I liked it when Uncle Bunky started drawing a stool for the back legs of his crazy animals.
"You know when the kid would say he would want elephant legs on the front and ant legs on the back. Uncle Bunky would draw a stool for the animal to stand on with his back legs."
"I think about Uncle Bunky almost every day," said Paul.
"I have the same affection for the Buddy and Kay Bain show. You remember them? I was on that show when I was really young. It was a big deal."
Thorn said he didn't have one of Uncle Bunky's crazy animals but wished he did.
Maybe there's a Dispatch reader who has a crazy animal that needs a good home, I said.
He laughed. "I don't wanna be like somebody begging on the street."
"I am really, really in tune to things like that," Thorn said. "They mean a lot to me."
Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.
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