Veteran hard rocker Paul Shortino, best known for his high-profile work fronting Rough Cutt and Quiet Riot, is a vocal master in the tradition of Paul Rodgers and Robert Plant, two of his all-time heroes. Rich, expressive and bluesy, his intense lead vocals are delivered with the inspired fervor of a true rock ‘n’ roll believer. And that he is, as proved quite consistently over the last two decades with a diverse string of independent projects. Today, when not writing and recording new material with which to showcase his pedigreed pipes, Shortino is developing and producing new artists for MusicWorks Entertainment (and its new label Rock Quarry Records), the firm he co-founded in 1997 with fellow musician and close friend J.T. Garrett.
Far beyond the realm of hard rock notoriety, Shortino is renowned for a quite different—but related—performance. In the early days of Rough Cutt, when Wendy Dio was first championing the band, a casting company rep caught them at L.A.’s famed Troubadour nightclub. Paul was called in to audition, and, decked out in fly white leather duds—“Oh, yeah,” he remembers them saying when they took in his rock-star splendor–and before you could shout ‘crank it to 11,’ Shortino was cast in cinema’s quintessential rock flick, the 1984 rockumentary This Is Spinal Tap. As the notorious Duke Fame, he’s seen en route to his own sold-out “Enormodome” concert, strutting past Spinal Tap in what’s supposedly a Memphis hotel—“in actuality a Burbank Holiday Inn,” says Paul. Fame’s manager, played by Howard Hesseman, snubs the Tap with the classic line, “We’d love to stand around and chat, but we gotta sit down in the lobby [and] wait for the limo.”
In real life, Paul Shortino has been making music as long as he can remember, and has more than seen his fair share of the dramatic ups and downs of the industry. Having the chance to so memorably spoof the rock ‘n roll circus is priceless to him, albeit at the time he played Fame, he was just coming into his own considerable spotlight. It was a journey that began in suburban Ohio, when, at age 6, Shortino started to learn the standards in harmony with his mom, also a singer. When his parents split in his early teens, Paul moved to southern California with his mother. He took up guitar and bass and began playing (underage) in Glendale area clubs with other aspiring musician friends.
Shortino’s first professional recording was as one half of the duo Paul & JoJo on the 1971 Snuff Garrett-produced single “Follow Me,” released on Bell Records, home to artists including the 5th Dimension, The Partridge Family, and Al Green. The song saw some chart action, but the label didn’t work it, focusing instead on other breaking hits and bigger-name acts. Paul began singing and playing rock ‘n’ roll in clubs all over L.A., mostly cover material, but some original songs as well. As L.A.’s burgeoning hard rock hey-day coalesced during the late ’70s and early ’80s, Shortino became a fixture in the scene’s ground zero, the Sunset Strip. It was here that the nucleus of Rough Cutt came together, originally featuring guitarists Jake E. Lee, who went on to fame with Ozzy Osbourne, and Craig Goldy, who did likewise with Giuffria and Dio.
Following inclusion on a KLOS-FM compilation of L.A.’s hottest unsigned bands, and concerts across the U.S. and in Europe and Japan, Rough Cutt was signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1984. Comprised of Shortino on vocals, Amir Derakh & Chris Hager on guitar, David Alford on drums, and Matt Thorne on bass, their self-titled debut was released the following year. Produced by Tom Allom (Judas Priest, Def Leppard, The Strawbs), Rough Cutt exploded with the band’s hook-heavy, blues-inflected metal roar—lead by Shortino’s potent vocals–and delivered acclaimed rockers including “Take Her” and “Cut Your Heart Out.” Soon after its release, Rough Cutt opened for Dokken and Dio at the L.A. Forum, and Paul remembers it as an incredible affirmation—“I’d seen Led Zeppelin there when I was a boy, and I always wanted to play the Forum. It was like a dream come true.”
Wants You! followed in ’86, produced by the legendary Jack Douglas (John Lennon, Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper, etc.). “It was amazing working with him,” says Shortino, adding, “he shared with me about how Steven Tyler wrote, and it helped me develop my own songwriting, especially in how to best draw from personal experiences.” Less metal-skewed and more a straight-ahead hard rock onslaught—in the vein of contemporaries Motley Crue and Bon Jovi—Rough Cutt’s second outing again drew raves from rock fans (many of whom now see the band as one of the ’80s’ best kept secrets). They also spent many months traversing the U.S. and circling the globe on major arena tours, including Dio’s 1986 “Sacred Heart” jaunt, one of the highest grossing of the era.
It was during a Rough Cutt tour of Japan that Paul made the decision to part ways with the band because of internal differences about what direction their music should take. Quiet Riot happened to be touring Japan at the same time, and had recently let go their longtime vocalist, Kevin DuBow. Rough Cutt’s then-manager Wendy Dio introduced Shortino to Quiet Riot, and engineered a deal for him to step in as their new lead singer (the remaining members of Rough Cutt went on to release an album under the name Jailhouse). In addition to his vocal mastery on Quiet Riot’s 1989 album QR, Shortino co-wrote every one of the disc’s 11 tracks, three of which—“The Joker,” “Stay With Me Tonight,” and “Callin’ The Shots”– made it onto the band’s 1996 Greatest Hits compilation. The intention was to do a second album with the Shortino-fronted line-up, but despite promising collaborations with Tommy Lee and Russ Ballard, internal strife, label politics and litigation derailed it, and Shortino moved on.
Going forward, Paul opted to develop projects on his own, often mixing it up with a veritable hard rock “who’s who” of virtuoso players, as well as with his own Germany-based Shortino Band. Venturing into a diverse array of endeavors suited Shortino, and it’s the career model he’s stayed with up to the present. In 1989, just after Quiet Riot, Paul recorded sessions for a blues-heavy rock project under the name Badd Boyz, also featuring bassist Sean McNabb (Great White, Quiet Riot), and guitar ace Mitch Perry, released in 1994. Recorded later, but out prior to it—in ’93—was Back On Track, Paul’s first collaboration with guitarist JK Northrup, which MusicWorks/Rock Quarry has put out as a limited edition 10th anniversary reissue. Recorded at northern California’s Prairie Sun Studio—“it used to be a chicken farm,” Paul says—the disc’s “Bye Bye To Love” was a particular favorite. Still in sync after all these years, the duo’s second joint venture is 2004’s Afterlife.
With his own band—who toured extensively in Europe throughout the ‘90s—Shortino released 1997’s It’s About Time—featuring his son Pauly on vocals on the moving track “Love Of My Life”—and the 1999 live CD Booked, Toured…Released! Also during this time, Paul met J.T. Garrett at an L.A. recording studio. A friendship clicked immediately, deepened by the fact that it was a bond that eased Shortino through the pain of his father’s death. Both were looking for new ventures, and they first pooled their talents for the blues-rock album Stand Or Fall, by Paul Shortino & The Rhythm Junkies, released in 1999. Paul and J.T. wrote or co-wrote over half of the tracks, which feature a host of Shortino’s past compatriots, including Rough Cutt alumnae David Alford, Amir Derakh and Matt Thorne.
The making of Stand Or Fall convinced Shortino that learning to produce records was essential for the creative visions he had in mind, and he immersed himself in becoming a ProTools expert. Soon after, he and Garrett invested in their own studio, and MusicWorks/Rock Quarry was born. Completely on his own terms, Shortino devoted his heart and soul to the recording of Sacred Place, a spiritually-infused hard rock manifesto whose sound Shortino has compared to “Plant & Page meet Soundgarden meet Aerosmith.” The disc does indeed spotlight ex-Aerosmith ace Jimmy Crespo on guitar, along with all-stars including Carlos Cavazo (Quiet Riot), Chuck Wright (House Of Lords), and Howard Leese (Heart, Paul Rodgers). Shortino originally envisioned the project as a potential Rough Cutt reunion, which never came to be. What did materialize was a set that Shortino believes is his finest work to date, released in 2002 as Paul Shortino’s The CUTT, Sacred Place. and the hit rocker “Freedom,”.
In 2009 Shortino released “Chasing My Dream”, a collaboration with world reknown producer Michael Voss (Scorpions, Michael Shcenker). Shortino adds, “The tracks are amazing. I have a renewed inspiration to write and record music that comes from within.”
The next release from Shortino will be as the lead vocalist for King Kobra, on their recently completed new CD, due out in February 2011. The band features all the original members, Carmine Appice, David Henzerling, Johnny Rod, Mick Sweda and Shortino replacing Mark Free on lead vocals.
King Kobra recently digitally released the track “Monsters and Heroes”, a song dedicated to the late Ronnie James Dio, a close friend and mentor to Shortino, and all royalties made from the track are being donated to The Ronnie James Dio Cancer Fund.