Paul Ashley Warren Atkinson (19 March 1946 – 1 April 2004) was a British guitarist and record company executive best known as a founding member of the pop/rock band The Zombies.
Paul Atkinson was born in Cuffley, Hertfordshire, and educated at St Albans School. At St Albans, Atkinson met Rod Argent and Hugh Grundy, and the three formed a band initially called the Mustangs, later changed to The Zombies. Colin Blunstone and Paul Arnold joined the new band in early 1961, but Arnold soon left and was replaced by Chris White. After the group won a local contest, they recorded a demo as their prize. Argent’s song “She’s Not There” got them a deal with Decca and was a hit in the UK and US. The group continued to record successfully through the 1960s, but disbanded in December 1967, reportedly over management disagreements.
Atkinson later became an artists and repertoire executive at Dick James Music, the Beatles’ publishing company, which developed into a production company, discovering and signing such bands as Elton John, ABBA, Bruce Hornsby, Mr. Mister, Judas Priest, Michael Penn and Grayson Hugh, who Atkinson brought to MCA Records from RCA Records in 1991. In January 2004 Atkinson received the President’s Merit Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences at a benefit concert at the House of Blues in Los Angeles. The Zombies reunited for the event.
Atkinson died at the age of 58 in a Santa Monica hospital due to liver and kidney disease on 1 April 2004. He had been suffering from cancer for some time, and had two liver transplants.