Juanita Paul wasn’t a musician, she was a muse. For more than 60 years she inspired countless Cincinnati musicians. And when she died in September, she left countless broken hearts. While the rest of us worshiped her from afar, her heart belonged to Philip Paul, legendary King Records drummer and her husband of 60 years. Phil was a young New Yorker making his name when he came to Cincinnati to join Tiny Bradshaw’s jump-blues band in the late 1940s. Then he met his Nita.
“She was so beautiful, so elegant. She had it all. I wanted her the moment we met, but I felt she was too good for me,” he once told me.
A former Cotton Club dancer, she was a local celebrity, her beautiful legs inspiring the Count Basie standard “Shiny Stockings.” The two were inseparable. She went to every gig. She’s why Phil became King’s session drummer. “The only thing that kept me here was Juanita,” he says.
And they were together on September 20, when Juanita, 94, died of complications from bladder cancer at the Drake Center’s hospice care unit.
“It was a wonderful life,” Phil told me October 2, a day before what would have been their 61st anniversary. “Nita was not only my wife; she was my buddy, my pal. I still can’t get it in my head that she’s gone.”
Originally published in the December 2013 issue.
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