Paul Caruso, 65, musician who played with Hendrix

Paul Caruso and his wife, Carol, in 2012.

Paul Caruso and his wife, Carol, in 2012.

BY T. SCHOEN | Paul Caruso, a well-known East Village musician who played with Jimi Hendrix and worked to help the neighborhood’s homeless, died of a stroke on April 20. He was 65 years old.

Caruso grew up in the Bronx. After dropping out of school in the ninth grade, he later took studies through Clayton College of Natural Health. He went on to pursue an artistic career, playing the guitar and the harmonica.

His musical talent secured a friendship with Hendrix, whose song “My Friend” featured Caruso playing the harmonica, a role incorrectly credited at the time of the album’s release to a “harp” player named “Ger.” Caruso’s association with Hendrix led to his appearance in a documentary about the rock star’s life, which granted him some minor fame

Caruso continued his music career after Hendrix’s death, playing music alone on his E. Ninth St. stoop and in parks with his friends even into his final days.

“We were playing in the park just a few hours before this happened,” said Ash Gray, another musician and friend of Caruso’s, at his funeral service at the Ortiz Funeral Home on First Ave.

Caruso’s artistic talents were not only in music, but extended also into painting and cooking, according to his son, Avian, who had been estranged from his father for more than 10 years, only hearing of his death a few days after it happened.

“He was writing a book that will, unfortunately, never be published,” said Brendan, a friend of Caruso’s. Brendan originally met Caruso through the Hendrix documentary, approaching Caruso on the street after recognizing him from the movie, and finding a friendship rather than rejection.

“He was a celebrity, but he was a good friend,” Brendan said.

Even with his family, friends and music all keeping him busy, Caruso still gave his time to serve the community he lived in.

“He really did like helping out,” said Ayana, his stepdaughter.

“Paul was a wonderful person, he served others. He would assist homeless people,” said Dash, another friend and fellow musician.

“We would do the food runs from Trader Joe’s for the homeless people,” said Gray. “He’d get a big van and we’d just drive around, picking up food.”

To the people who knew Caruso, he was a passionate, intelligent and humble person.

Jimmy Sims, another friend, said Caruso and Carol only recently married after having been together for years. Together, they fed the East Village’s homeless at different local spots over the years. Sims said Caruso would wear a cowboy hat when he played guitar on his stoop.

He is survived by his wife, Carol, his son, Avian, his two brothers, Phil and Tony, several stepchildren, grandchildren and many other family members.

“He was the most intelligent person I’ve ever known,” said his brother Phil. “Throughout his life there had always been a lack of contentment, but these last years were the greatest of his life.”

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6 Responses to Paul Caruso, 65, musician who played with Hendrix

  1. I met Paul at a recording session. Big Bud a NJ blues artist was not happy with the harmonica on a few tracks and asked Paul to see if he could add the final touches to a few songs. Well not only did Paul agree but laid down some outstanding tracks. He was easy to work with and eager to get things right. On a song titled "Livin & Lax'in" he played licks that surprized even himself, stating, "I've never played like that before"! On a Hendrix cover
    of "Roomful of Mirrors" is where he truly impressed me and everyone in earshot. The song is full of hi-intensity feedback guitars and Paul was adding harmonics and effects that embellished and enhanced. I've never heard anyone else do this with a harmonica.
    At end of session I rewarded him with a harmonica poster he had been admiring.
    I got to spend more time with him at a Woodstock reunion and he was happy camping at the original Max Yasgur farm for a few days. Beautiful fellow he was.

  2. Paul David Caruso was a good soul – a fabulous musician, a poet and a prince. He was my best friend – soul mate through much of the late 60s/early 70s when I was often a mess and he helped me keep my life together. We shared many wonderful creative moments, warmth and cosmic laughter in the Chelsea Hotel. I always hoped I'd run into him again and will always hold him near and dear to my heart.

  3. I have been enjoying the PBS American Masters Hendrix feature tonight, and saw the recent Paul Caruso interview footage. I remembered Paul from his interview in the ’73 Hendrix doc, which was big part of my high school years in the 80′s. I sadly found this article through a web search. In addition to his great harp on ‘My Friend’, he is also immortalized, by name, as the the guy who told us that we can’t believe everything we see and hear, can we, on ‘EXP’!

    R.I.P., Mr. Caruso.

  4. Paul Carouso plays along with Jimi on a couple of tracks on West Coast Seattle Boy. I always enjoyed his contribution on the Boyd film…Paul..Rest in peace with Jimi,Mitch,Noel, Buddy,Larry Lee, Chas…………….

  5. RIP Paul. Does anyone know if Paul did a Dylan impression with guitar and harmonica? I think I heard him on a tape with Jimi where they are working out Dylan's All Along The Watchtower before Jimi released his version. Anyone know the story of their recordings together? Did Paul own a copy? On the tape, it sounds like Dylan but I suspect that it was Paul. The piece was recorded over by them, but snippets can be heard still.

  6. RIP Paul: We briefly worked together in a photo lab on St marks in the late seventies (Photo Projections). I was always a huge Hendrix fan and when I met him his name didn't click. We were developing film in total darkness and talking He was a real nice and genuine person. Then all of a sudden I realized that his voice seemed familiar and it clicked from the movie I had seen a 100 times with him talking about Jimi Hendrix while lying on a bed. I said holy shit Paul your from the Hendrix movie! He was very modest about and told me all kinds of stories after that, it was special to me.

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