Paul Haskell Motheral (February 6, 1931 - ) Paul was born in San Benito, Texas, a small town in south Texas close to the border of Mexico. Paul’s mother was a classically trained opera singer and his earliest recognition of musical influence was from the 78 record collections being played in the house. He first started playing clarinet in the 5th grade and was classically trained.
Prior to attending his first All State Band, he was conflicted between playing football and being in the band. His band director worked with the football coach to present Paul with the reality of which direction he might choose. His football coach told him that while he was an adequate football player, he was not going to be outstanding. His band director told him that he was very talented musically and had an excellent chance of going to the All State Band as a sophomore. It was at this point he decided he wanted to pursue music.
It was at his first All State Band that he heard and joined members of the Alamo Heights and other larger schools jazz bands and got bit by the Jazz bug.
He came home, borrowed an alto saxophone from a neighbor and organized the first high school swing band in his high school. His band director (a bassoonist) knew nothing about jazz but was very supportive of Paul’s effort. While there were no jazz bands in San Benito, the big bands of Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman and Stan Kenton were very popular and Paul was able to purchase their records and was influenced by their styles.
Paul had only one jazz lesson arranged by his high school band director with traveling music store representative. Paul remembers it as being a major turning point.
In addition to organizing the high school swing band, Paul also organized another dance band with high school players from other local towns. To gain additional experience, his parents would take him to Matamoras (across the border) to sit in with a really popular professional dance band, “Chucho Hernandez”.
His growth and interest grew to the point that upon his high school graduation, he was torn as to whether he should pursue a degree in engineering at Texas A&M or music at the University of Colorado. Fortunately for him, he was able to satisfy both as he was selected to play lead alto and clarinet in the Aggieland Orchestra led by Bill Turner, which was made up of returning G.I.’s who were hired to come to school and play in the band. This essentially allowed Paul to get paid to play with top notch professional musicians while pursuing a degree in Civil engineering. His pay covered all his college expenses.
His parents supported his idea to attend the University of Colorado in Boulder to take music courses in the summer. It was there that through professor Joseph Iodone, he got the opportunity to fill in the lead alto/clarinet position with the Tex Beneke band for a couple of weeks. The following summer he got the opportunity to travel with the Claude Thornhill big band on the road from Denver to Cheyenne, Wyoming.
While it was a thrill to play with these high caliber big bands, his experience on the road convinced him that he should return to College Station and complete his degree in civil engineering.
Having been part of the corps, upon graduation he served a two year term in the U.S. Army as a lieutenant, during the Korean War. During this time, he was not active, musically.
After fulfilling his military obligation, he returned to south Texas to work in the construction industry. He eventually started his own companies and had a very successful career. It was shortly after he returned to south Texas that he was contacted to play lead alto with the Dick Hurlbert Band which lasted until the early 60’s. The success of his business and the popularity of rock ‘n roll led to Paul’s retirement as an active musician. As Paul describes it, “Rock ‘n roll saved my life!”
But while he retired from actively performing, his love of “big band”, jazz and music in general did not stop.
He has been an active audience participant finding his way to the top jazz clubs on both coasts, attends multiple jazz cruises, jazz parties and jazz festivals. He has also been very supportive of the arts through major contributions to various musical organizations.
Paul was a major supporter of the Weslaco High School stage band during the 70’s by arranging for clinics with major jazz performers like Maynard Ferguson Woody Herman and the Frank Kapp Juggernaut Band to give the band exposure and experience. This exposure to highly talented jazz musicians really paid off as the stage band and individuals within the band competed at Texas Music Education Association (TMEA) events.
Paul and his wife Betty have supported many musical organizations including the first Crested Butte Musical Festival, Spicewood Arts Society, Texas A&M Music department, and the Austin Jazz Society. In 1996, they set up a scholarship program for individuals majoring in engineering and who are also participating in the university wind ensemble.
Paul first met Tony Campisi in Houston when Tony was playing clubs and backing up traveling “names”. He was at “The Bastills” when Tony started his tour with Stan Kenton’s band in the late 60’s. Paul followed Tony’s career but did not really become close acquaintances until they both moved to Austin in the mid 80’s. Over the years, they became close friends. After Tony’s untimely death (March 7, 2010), Paul and Betty started and underwrite an annual Tribute Concert held as part of the Spicewood Arts Society concert series.
Paul remains a very active jazz supporter and aficionado.