Somewhat of a mystery man in the annals of rock ‘n’ roll. A singer from New York who worked the New Jersey club scene for two decades starting in 1939. He’s described as a large man with a pompadour, always elegantly dressed and openly gay, who specialized in sentimental ballads sung with a clear tone in a higher voice, recording a few songs with Ace Harris along the way that showed him in his element. When rock ‘n’ roll came into existence in the late 1940’s he cut some sides that delved into that realm on Atlantic, roughening his voice some to be more convincing.

None of his records became hits however and he continued to make his living ensconced in the Jersey nightlife, producing shows as well as performing. In 1952 he put on Manhattan Paul’s Revue at the Newark Opera House which included budding female rock star Edna McGriff among its participants.

Though a minor entry in the rock ledger himself his colorful name was adapted by Paul Bascomb sometime after the two recorded sides together for Manor Records in 1948. Manhattan Paul did in fact sing on most of the cuts they did together but on “Rock & Roll” he sat out entirely and Bascomb’s band took center stage with someone in his ranks handling lead vocals. Manor didn’t change the label credit for that side however leading many to believe that it was the same singer as on the flip, “Two Ton Tessie” (which WAS Manhattan Paul).

Though “Rock & Roll” never reached the charts it did stir some interest and down the line Bascomb, either because it had been assumed he was the “Paul” referenced on the label, or simply because he thought the name was a good drawing card, adopted that moniker for himself in the early 1950’s when cutting further rock records. Because of that original record’s historical importance due to its romping style and the use of the term early in rock’s development, the discographies of the two men have frequently been combined or confused.

Manhattan Paul the club singer saw his recording opportunities dry up before long but he remained a fixture locally for a number of years after his brief moments in the spotlight on national releases in the 1940’s while his name’s lingering historical interest is due mostly to someone else entirely.
MANHATTAN PAUL DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):

(Manor 1137; September, 1948)
Credited to Manhattan Paul but he did not perform on the record.

(Atlantic 868; December, 1948)
Cover of Wynonie Harris’s 11 month old record certainly improves on most facets of the presentation, but due to the rapidly evolving standards used to judge rock music it is no more or less effective for ITS time than Harris’s was for that earlier time. (5)
For the biography and discography of the saxophonist Manhattan Paul Bascomb please visit his page: PAUL BASCOMB.