Hah! Most of the time when exclaiming the virtues of a talented blues harmonica player, most of us will say something like, "Man! You can really blow that thang!" In response, most will not answer the compliment with, "Well, technically, I suck on the thang...more than blow." They're not going to get into a treatise on playing "cross harp" or second position, which means that most of the notes needed to get that soulful tone will have to be inhaled and played with before they exhale anything back out the blow hole. I'm not going to expound upon it either. Just wanted to explain the sucky title and spit out a list of some Texans who suck at the blues (harp), because lots of folks get the idea that Texas bluesmen are all guitar slingers. Some of these suckers are really well known, some not, some play strictly blues, some not, some were born here, some not, some have moved to a foreign state, some not...but they've all devoted a good portion of their lives to sucking on that thang and Texas figures into the mix somewhere down the line. And, many on this list influenced me to suck at it also.
1. Kim Wilson--yeah, I know. He wasn't born here and may not live here any longer, but I cut my teeth on the blues that he sucked on at clubs like, The LaCucuracha and Rome Inn in Austin with the The Fabulous Thunderbirds. NOBODY sucks like he does.
2. Gary Primich--sadly, no longer with us, but he had Little Walter's genius for innovating ways to suck more variety out of those ten holes.
3. Sonny Boy Terry--been sucking it up in the big H-Town for a long enough time to be THE BLUES in Houston. He's sort of a legendary Gulf Coast Blues groover now.
4. Paul Orta--he may spend more time in Europe than his native Port Arthur, but to me, he was doing the 'real deal', authentic Chicago style, nasty ol' amped up sucking in Texas before anyone else. He had Little Walter, Big Walter, and the Sonny Boy Williamson stuff down pat back in the '70s.
5. Sam Myers--yeah, I know he's from Mississippi, but he spent his years playing with Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets living and jammin' in Big D. The Deacon of the Delta lived closer to the Trinity River than the Mississippi River for a long period of time before passing on.
6. Billy Bizor--long gone and forgotten by some, but remembered by most Houston blues fans. He sucked some kind of rollicking stuff back in the day.
7. Jukeboy Bonner--no one related to his Houston environment like Weldon 'Jukeboy' Bonner. He told it like it was when he sang about staying off Lyons Avenue. Born in Bellville, Texas, he kept a lot of those country roots when he moved to the bright lights of the big city.
8. Darrell Nulisch--preceded Sam Myers as Anson Funderburgh's singer/sucker. He's in the same company with Kim Wilson, Tad Robinson and John Nemeth who have the vocal chops to swing effortlessly from hard core gutbucket blues through R&B and soul blues to match their exquisite harp sucking.
9. Dave Nevling--sucks some great tone with great technique while also channelin' that Gulf Coast vibe that rubbed off from his internship with Bert Wills.
10. Tommy 'Big Daddy Gumbo' Dardar--put him, Sonny Boy Terry and Dave Nevlingd in the same room, sucking on harp reeds and nobody'd have to explain what I mean about Texas Gulf Coast Blues--you'll smell like crab boil and red beans & rice before you leave. He's celebrating his 60th b-day at The Big Easy Friday. Might be a good way to work off a little turkey.
11. Christian Dozzler--yeah, I know he's from Austria, but DFW has been his home base for a long time and he's played with just about everyone up yonder in North Texas. Plays a lot of keyboard with others, but he can suck it up darned good when called upon and when leading his own band.
12. Hash Brown--one of Dozzler's running buddies. Guitar's his main axe, but he pulls the harpoon from his bandana plenty of times and gets down on it.
13. Steve Krase--was Jerry Lightfoot's sidekick, touches on Magic Dick's rockin' style...not many bluesmen can pull off covering Uriah Heep in their shows.
14. Randy McAllister--one of those dudes that can do a little bit of it all. Sing his butt off while banging a snare while sucking a blues harp up yonder around DFW.
15. Stephen Schneider--mild mannered professor by day, badass harp sucker by night. Straightened out more blues jams around Houston than anyone I know. Plus he's got licks on a Grammy winning blues album. Learned everything I know about harp amps and tongue blocking from the Professor.
16. Larry Bernal--Sonny Boy Terry prodigy who's doing his mentor proud by gettin' her down with the HTown Jukes.
17. Gary Sapone--watched him suck notes while holding a harp mic upside down at a Houston area HOOT seminar (Harmonica Organization Of Texas). The fat tone came out right-side up though.
18. Tom McClendon--runs The Big Easy Pleasure and Social Club in Houston. One of Texas' finest blues joints. He gets it going at his weekly jams.
19. Hamilton Loomis--been doing it way before he was old enough to enter a bar. Way talented multi-instrumentalist and his vacuum cleaner microphone holder really gets the sucking action going. Another product of Sonny Boy Terry's school of harp instruction.
20. Rob Roy Parnell--not gonna mention that he's Lee Roy's little brother. I know he's proud of that, but Rob Roy's his own man with his own thang. One heck of a singer, songwriter and harp sucker.
21. Walter T. Higgs--followed Clifford Antone from Port Arthur at some point. He's puts on a wild and woolly show.
22. Ted Roddy--doesn't matter whether he was leading Teddy and The Talltops, The Tearjoint Troubadours or Teddy and the Hitkickers, this Austin cat can swing honky tonk, rockabilly, rock'n'roll, or blues. Does a kick-butt annual Tribute to Elvis.
Sure I know that this is far from a definitive list of blues suckers from deep in the heart of Texas. I know for a fact, that as I type and as you read, someone's sucking up the blues right now in Port Arthur, Corpus, San Antone, McAllen, Lufkin, Amarillo, Alpine and all points in between. There are HOOT communities all over the place and I guarantee that they all have members that'll knock your socks off with their sucking. They just might not venture very far to prove it, or desire to do so. Bottom line--that I thought I'd put some Texas cats on a blue harp list.
Tom Waits - Friday's Blues
7 hours ago