Paul Leim played some of his earliest music in the band hall of Troup schools. While the building is not the same as it was in his school days, it really hasn’t changed a lot. Students learn to love music and band directors love to teach them.
Troup band students heard some tall tales and some life lessons as they listened to Leim, THS class of 1969, recall some of his old days in Troup and the many years he has spent on the road, in the studio and behind a set of drums.
To say that Leim is well known in the music world is an understatement. Stage, screen, television and studio recording has taken him all over the world with artists from Tom Jones to Tanya Tucker, topping the charts with Elvis and setting the mood in “Star Wars, Return of the Jedi.” He has done it all.
The eight-time Academy of Country Music drummer of the year nominee and Nashville Music Row Magazine’s “Top 10 Music All Stars” award winner got his start when former Troup band director Neil Grant took him under his wing as a kid, still wet behind the ears, and helped him hone a God-given talent from something that was just fun into something that was brilliant.
His love of music started early in life.
“My mother had music going at our farmhouse constantly,” Leim said. “All kinds of music. Big Band, orchestra, swing. And, I was the kid that pounded on everything rhythmically, constantly. I would even hear rhythms in the crickets at night out on the farm.”
During his visit with old friends and wide-eyed students last week, Leim shared how that beat stayed at the center of his life and still does today.
Leim says he was 14 the summer The Beatles had one of their first hits, “I Feel Fine.”
“I knew I had to play drums for my lifetime,” he said. “I couldn’t think of anything else.”
At 15 he and some seniors and college guys formed the “Marauders” a rock and roll band at school. They played in a dance club downtown Troup called the Hideaway. It drew kids from all over East Texas. They played cover tunes from the Stone and Beatles.
Tyler recording studio owner Robin Hood Brians heard the Marauders play at Bergfeld Park one night.
“Kid you have a metronome in your head,” Brians told him. “How would you like to play on records at my studio?”
“I said sure,” Leim laughed. “I’ll have to ask my mom.”
Next thing he knew he was on KLTV playing with an outfit called the Fowler Playboys making $7. While still in school Leim was playing honky tonks all over East Texas. Each of these steps led to a higher realm of performance and sometimes the price was steep.
Studio work in Dallas came his way after Ronnie Tutt left Dallas to go on tour with Elvis. That time led to playing with the great Doc Severinsen. The list of performers Leim went on to play for is long but just a few include Kenny Rogers, Randy Travis, Kenny Chesney and Neil Diamond. He even recorded with the Monkees on their 20th anniversary record “Then and Now” and went on to do further work with Mike Nesmith.
Friends like Chuck Osborn and Jan and Jimmy Singletary, from the old days, came by to visit with their former band buddy.
“It was great to see him again,” Osborn said. “I couldn’t help but remember the motorcycles we had back then. They were almost identical and we went everywhere on those things.”
Another former Troup band director, Jim Haygood drove in when he heard Leim would be in Troup. Osborn says that Grant and Haygood were both instrumental in Leim’s development as a musician, going beyond what anyone might have expected from the high school band member.
Leim told the students how the opportunities to play music for a living back then were far more diverse and plentiful than now.
“In our age of Karaoke, free downloads, YouTube and programmed music, it is so difficult to learn your craft of all styles of music, and make progress musically and financially,” Leim said. “Advanced music schools are the best way to be exposed now to more styles, since the playing jobs don’t exist anymore on a daily basis. That is the bad news.”
He encouraged them dream big and practice hard.
“The incredibly gifted players with a passion to be excellent will find a way to be heard and get to live their dreams musically,” Leim added. “I have spent a life at this and I am the luckiest man in the world to have spent it in music, the common joy of mankind.”