Friday, December 5, 2008

Blues Harp Folks

Thought that I would drop a list of blues harp players that have had a bit of an impact on my own self. Of course, the Giants of the Genre have all had lots of influence on my development as a player and most all on the list got what they've got from the likes of Sonny Terry, Sonny Boy Williamson I&II, Little Walter, Big Walter and even Howlin' Wolf. There would be none of us, if they hadn't been laying it down back in the day.

The guys listed here are those that just have something that I don't have and would like to have in the way of deep, deep tone and in some cases, harp guys that I have come to know and have witnessed just what they can get going on the harp up close and personal and in some cases have helped me along my journey. No particular order of importance here, because they have all perked my ears and tweaked what I do.

1. Sonny Boy Terry--Anyone that reads my blog has read bits and pieces about Sonny Boy Terry. I've seen him step up in a room filled with great harmonica players and rise above them all with one, fat harp note. He is as good as anybody out there.

2. Gary Primich--One of the most versatile harp players in terms of moving from one style to another, but when he chose to do the deep, heavy toned stuff, he could be untouchable. I was sitting next to Sonny Boy Terry one night when Primich hit the stage and Terry had one thing to say about the first lick hit, "Whoa, FAT!" Listen to Mark Hummel's Bluesharp Meltdown with Primich featured and it is clear that he melts them all down. He passed away way too soon.

3. Kim Wilson--He is simply the King of the Hill.

4. Rick Estrin--He and Kim were pulling from the Source back in the late '60s and now they are the Source. May the Source be with you.

5. Rod Piazza--Ditto to #3. Has to be something special about guys like these who keep it real and have been at it for 40 some-odd years. I actually understood Little Walter a little more after listening to my first Piazza recording.

6. James Harman--I just like the tone he gets going once he plugs in and he's right with #3,#4 as far as tenure on the circuit goes and hangs with them all.

7. Gary Smith--Took me a little longer to catch on to Smith, but if the rest of the guys above defer to him as THE Westcoast Guru, then he is. It is tone that matters most with him and he produces it in spades.

8. Lester Butler--My favorite live recording is his Red Devils Live at King King. A classic. Another one that left the planet too early.

9. Ian Collard--The Aussie has tone to the bone and can do the overblow/draw thang while he is at it and does it with a great trio from down under.

10.Stephen Schneider--Professor Schneider has straighten me out more times than I can remember as far as what I should be doing to become a more toneful harp dude. In fact, he frequently straightened a whole roomful of HOOT (Harmonica Organization Of Texas) members and got us flying on a better path. We listened because we couldn't get close to the tones that he was producing before our very ears, but some of us tried. Many years later and I'm still not there, but I'm much, much better because of his insistence that I get better.

11. Charlie Musselwhite--I was going to stop at 10, but I can't overlook the Granddaddy of them all. He was the first blues harp player that I heard that really used a lot more of the harp than most bluesmen. Instead of working out just on the first 6 holes, he ran up and down the thing more frequently. He's also the only one with a seminal '60s recording to his fame. He just keeps on keeping on.

Oh, I guess I could go on and on with the likes of RJ Mischo, Mitch Kashmar, Tad Robinson, John Nemeth, Jason Ricci, James Cotton, Mojo Buford, Junior Wells, and on and on...and I love them all. This list is made up of those that made a difference in my quest for tone. So be it. Anyway--

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