CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On the entertainment scene in downtown Charleston, he's what they call a player, an icon of sorts. At 43, New York transplant Paul Greco, known mostly as "PG," owns two of the hottest spots in town -- Sam's Uptown Café and the Boulevard Tavern.
The affable son of a lifelong bartender, he arrived in Charleston 20 years ago intending to play a little music and move on. He loved it enough to stay. He tended bar and played his bass wherever the best gigs took him.
Tracking someone in the bar business is like watching moves in a checkers match. Here. There. Back over there. Eventually, PG found his place. In this case, his places.
He never imagined he'd own a bar. Call it a dream come true times two.
"I was born in Utica, N.Y., about an hour east of Syracuse. When I was 3, we moved to a city way out in the country. Basically, I grew up milking cows and baling hay.
"When my father got out of World War II, he went straight to Vegas and was a bartender until he was 72.
"It's a hard way to make a living. You're out late hours and not home a lot, and when you are home, you are sleeping during the day. But we had a lot of fun as kids. We were real outdoorsy and played in the woods.
"My father worked for a buddy who had an Italian restaurant, so we were at the restaurant three or four times a week. I started working the door at a bar in Utica when I was 18. My buddies and I were also playing music in bars when we were very young.
"My brother had a band. He was a couple of years older, but I was the only guy around who could do the part. I play bass.
"I learned to play in school. They needed a standup bass player. My conductor gave me a one-two-three-how-to-play-the-standup-bass book. Three times a week, I was in the basement at the junior high school learning how to play that bass. I don't have a good working knowledge of the instrument, but I've been playing a long time, so I've developed an ear.
"I worked in a grocery store and department store all through high school and did some construction. I was a plumber by trade. In New York, a friend of my mom had a buddy who was striking out on his own, and he taught me from the ground up. I've been doing construction stuff ever since.
"In March of '92, we left Utica on a Sunday evening and got here Monday morning and played to a packed house at the Empty Glass on Monday night. A friend, Mick Bondy, was already here. He had moved down here with his wife. I used to play music with him. He said I should come down here and check it out. He's moved back to New York since then. But I fell in love with Charleston.
"New York, even the small towns, is very cutthroat. You've got to bust your butt to make it. It's carefree living here. I enjoy the atmosphere, and I've made the best friends I could hope for.
"I was here on a trial basis, and we started to play every Monday at the Glass doing a Grateful Dead tribute. I got involved in the Todd Who Project, and we played every Tuesday at the Glass. I was playing at the Glass two or three times a week.
"After a while, we formed the one band I still play with, Tastes Like Chicken. We've been playing around more than 10 years. When I left Sam's and opened the Boulevard Tavern, my schedule got a little jumbled, so I haven't played much music lately.
"My first full-time bar job here was at the Rivertown Pub. We played music there. I was working in these bars and booking my band at the same time.