Blind Dog Dave

Former NY Gov. David Paterson has a band. We checked it out.

See original story in the Gothamist here

Blind Dog Dave
Blind Dog Dave and the Pirate Throng featuring Governor David A. Paterson (Blind Dog), David Murray on guitar and percussion, aqnd musical director Simon Mills on piano. The band is usually a seven piece featuring Liberty DeVitto on drums and host of other talented cats who make up the throng but there just wan't room at the War Room for the full throng.

It was the night before the State of the State address, and some of New York’s most powerful elected officials were huddled shoulder to shoulder in a dimly lit bar.

The gathering was not about Gov. Kathy Hochul or her legislative agenda. It was about a different New York governor — one who was nervously awaiting his cover band’s Albany debut.

“People say, ‘You've spoken to audiences all over the world. Why would you be frightened?’” former Gov. David Paterson told Gothamist from his spot at the corner of the bar. “I said, when I spoke all over the world, I didn't have a guitar in my hand.”

Paterson, a Harlem Democrat who left office in 2010, has his place firmly secured in the New York history books. He was the first Black governor. He was the first legally blind governor. He guided the state through a tumultuous period—and, in some cases, may have added to the tumult himself—after Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned in 2008.

At the bar this week, he made more history—as probably the first governor to front a cover band in the state capital.

These days, Paterson remains firmly entrenched in the world of New York politics, serving as a vice president for the Las Vegas Sands Corporation as it fights to build a multibillion-dollar casino project on Long Island.

But in his off time, he’s taken to singing and playing the guitar—a role that puts him front and center in his new-ish band, the cheekily named Blind Dog Dave and the Pirate Throng.

“There's seven of us,” he said. “Seven stranded castaways.”

He started playing a few years ago, in the early days of the pandemic. He said he and his wife were trying to come up with creative ways to bide their time while everything was shut down.

Paterson said he took some guitar lessons in high school but they didn’t stick. His wife suggested he call Dan Smith—he of the Dan Smith Will Teach You Guitar fliers plastered around New York City—and he did. A few weeks into his lessons, Paterson played some tunes with Smith at Bar Nine on the West Side, and he’s played in public a few times since.

But the crowd this week was different.

The War Room is the ultimate Albany insider’s bar. It’s owned by Todd Shapiro, a well-connected PR guru who’s done work for a bevy of politicians in New York City and on Long Island. He’s covered the walls in political memorabilia. In a dining room on the second floor, there’s an old campaign sign for Basil Paterson, the late state senator and Harlem power broker who happens to be the former governor’s father.

Around 10 p.m., the high-powered guests filtered into a dimly lit lounge area on the third floor. Waiters poured swigs of champagne as politicians, reporters and lobbyists scouted out their seats.

Attorney General Letitia James sat in the first row. Paterson and his wife sat with former Rep. Carolyn Maloney while his bandmates—the room’s only big enough for two of them tonight—warmed up the crowd. State Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs stood by the side of the stage.

David A. Paterson

Former Gov. David Patterson chats with former Rep. Carolyn Maloney at The War Room in Albany this week.
Jon Campbell / Gothamist

Toward the back of the room, a man approached a news photographer. It was former state Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith—voted out of office in 2014 amid a bribery scandal—pointing out a photo op: 19-year-old Quentin Colon Roosevelt, the great-great-great grandson of Teddy Roosevelt, was taking in the performance, sitting underneath a portrait of his famous ancestor.

James stepped up on stage to give an introduction.

“David, you have brought us all together,” James says. “And there's one thing that we can agree on and that is—you can't sing.”

The crowd laughed. After Jacobs and Shapiro said a few words, it was Paterson’s turn. He strapped on a sunburst Fender Stratocaster and took the stage.

“I’m David Paterson and I’m a recovering governor,” he said.

The band kicked right into “Boom Boom,” an old John Lee Hooker song. The former governor sang lead, and he quickly laid into Hooker’s famous low growl—“a how how how how”—while adding some flourishes of his own.

“I like the way you walk / I like the way you talk,” Paterson sang. “And when you whisper in my ears / You say, governor, I love you.”

He mostly played the right chords. His voice was relatively on pitch. He got the lyrics down cold—which wasn’t surprising, given he used to memorize all his major speeches, including the State of the State addresses he gave in 2009 and 2010.

The band rolled through a respectable rendition of “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay” before Paterson dedicated a song to the current governor: “My Girl” by The Temptations, a nod to Hochul’s status as the first female governor.

The crowd was into it. They took videos on their phone and sang along, reaching a crescendo by the time the famous chorus—“I guess you’ll say / what can make me feel this way?”—kicked in.

By the end of the tune, Paterson was feeling it. He closed it out with an improvised “Kathy, Kathy, Kathy, Kathy Hoooooochul,” much to the delight of the crowd of politicos a few drinks deep.

Jon Campbell

Jon Campbell covers the New York State Capitol for WNYC and Gothamist. Prior to that, he covered the Capitol for more than a decade for the USA TODAY Network. He has twice earned the Walter T. Brown Memorial Award, an honor given annually by the Legislative Correspondents Association alumni for outstanding state government coverage. Jon grew up in the Buffalo area and graduated from the University at Albany. Got a tip? Email Jon at or Signal 518-210-7087.

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See original story in the Gothamist here

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