California Pickers – Paul Knight

Paul Knight is the best soundman on the west coast, and maybe beyond.

I first knew him as a bassist, and I believe that is what he would call himself first. He is the bassist for Peter Rowan, as well as the current version of the Kathy Kallick Band (whose line-up is ever-changing). He was the founding bassist for the David Thom Band (a group close to my heart), and has sat in regularly with Laurie Lewis, David Grisman, Jim Lauderdale and many others.

However, it’s his high level of skill at both sound engineering and bass playing that makes it impossible to speak to only one topic or the other.

Paul got his first bass, an electric, at age 14, but says his serious interest in music started in college. In 1980, he got a job as a speaker builder and assistant engineer for American Speaker in Boston, which lasted until 1984. He then worked as an independent sound engineer and speaker repair tech from 1985 to 1992 between San Francisco and Boston. He moved to the San Francisco Bay area for good in 1992, bought an upright bass, and sold all of his electrics (I wish I had asked how many he had!), and proceeded to play on Sandy Rothman’s solo CD, Old Road to Home, just a year later.

Knight had been working in live sound production since 1980, but went full time in ’92. In 1994, Paul became a ‘double threat’ in the bluegrass world (meaning he could get paid for two skill sets, maybe even on the same job), by becoming a specialist in live sound for acoustic instruments. He has mixed everyone under the sun in the acoustic world by being ‘the guy’ in Northern California. It is absolutely commonplace to hear a touring artist say something like, “Oh thank God, it’s you, Paul!” at load-in for a show.

Since devoting himself to upright bass, his list of accolades is impressive for any bass player:

  • Peter Rowan (since ’94)
  • The David Thom Band
  • Laurie Lewis’ Grant Street
  • Kathy Kallick Band
  • Jim Lauderdale
  • Eric & Suzy Thompson
  • Perfect Strangers
  • The Aux Cajunals
  • Midnite Ramblers
  • Crooked Jades
  • Due West
  • Judith Edelman
  • Stadler/Gibbons Band
  • Wake the Dead…

And it was here that Paul had to drift off and try to remember the rest of bands that he has worked with.

And like so many of the people I meet in bluegrass, Paul is just simply one of the nicest, and hardest working people you will ever run across. To see him work live sound is truly a workshop in how it’s done. Integrity, focus, and attention to detail are mainstays in his performance, on and off the stage.

It is also a true pleasure to know that one of the most seasoned west coast musicians is out there turning the knobs for you, and that he is doing everything in his power to make you sound amazing. I’m proud to get to work with him, and to call him a friend. I hope you get that chance, too.

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About the Author

David Thom

Based in Sonoma, California, David Thom is the guitarist and front man for the David Thom Band, as well as mandolinist for the Flatt and Scruggs Tribute Band and Grandpa Banana’s Band. He also runs his own IT consulting business,