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Returning his talent


June 2014

Oconomowoc native PT Gazell was 15 years into his second career as an audio engineer for the radio, television and film industry when a young documentary filmmaker came to him with an idea to make a movie about the legendary Station Inn in Nashville.

The movie would require help from several musicians. Gazell, who as a member of the late Johnny Paycheckís backup band was once one of the hottest bluegrass and country harmonica players in the nation, knew them all.

"I hadnít played a note of music in almost 15 years," Gazell says of his self-imposed hiatus. The young filmmaker didnít know Gazellís storied history. So he Googled Gazell ó an idea foreign to the musician in 2003.

"A lot of stuff came up, including ĎPT Gazell is dead.í It was funny and at the same time rewarding," Gazell says. "Seeing all of the nice things people said kind of gave me the bug again."

Three solo albums and 11 years later, music fans are happy he got it. Gazell, 60, received a double Grammy nomination in 2011 for "2 Days Out." Heís currently living in Nashville and working on a new CD, which heís hoping to release by August.

The self-taught harmonica player left Oconomowoc in the mid-1970s for Lexington, Ky., where he met a pedal steel guitar player who worked with Paycheck and offered him a spot in Paycheckís band.

"I had to drop everything and move to Nashville. It was a pretty major decision, but it turned out to be a pretty good one," Gazell says. Paycheck recorded his only No. 1 hit, "Take this Job and Shove It," a few weeks after Gazell joined the band.

"I hit it lucky," he says. "The band was an extremely good band and I learned to be a much better musician. Itís well documented (Paycheck) had a lot of issues, but when he was interested in what he was doing, he was one of the best country ballad singers Iíve ever heard in my life."

Gazell has mostly left bluegrass and country music behind for his solo work, focusing on swing and jazz, which he says has always been his true passion.

This story ran in the June 2014 issue of: