It was a humid summer’s day down by the duck pond. The Rear Admiral was manicuring his plush lawns, a column of pink¬†floribundas¬†saluting as he snipped past. From across the green, the¬†canopy¬†of elder flowers nodded their approval in the warm breeze, while hover flies patrolled the cow parsley below. The Good Doctor was¬†preparing a cordial and halving strawberries for afternoon tea. He hummed as he spooned caster sugar into the bowl, the fruity aroma filling the kitchen.¬†‘How many songbirds fly to and fro, in an English country ga-ar… what the?’¬†A manilla envelope boomeranged through the window, clipped his ear and skidded to a halt on the kitchen table.¬†‘
‘Morning Doc!’¬†Otis the mailman strode in through the kitchen door and dropped his bag on the flagstones. ‘A fine day for a bit of footy’. It was the¬†the start of the European Cup and the standard of St George had been hoisted up the Tickled Trout‘s flagpole.¬†‘I have no doubt Otis, but one more trick like that and it’s a red card for you’.
‘Strawberries look tasty!’ said Otis, changing the subject. ‘They’re for¬†the opening ceremony old boy; keep your thieving Germans¬†off’. He¬†slipped the bowl of fruit into the chiller. ‘D’you hear about the bloke who goes to¬†the doctor’s and says I’ve got strawberries growing out me ears?’ asked Otis. ‘No I don’t believe I have Otis’. The Good Doctor winced in anticipation. ‘Don’t worry says the doctor, I’ve got some cream for that!’
While Otis laughed at his own joke, the Doc gutted¬†the manilla envelope and drew out its contents. ‘Talking of cream Otis old chap,¬†here’s a CD we can play at half time. Remember I chatted to Mark Feltham about this recording a while ago? Well I’ve just had a chat with the other harmonica player, Mitt Gamon. I’ll¬†put the kettle on..’Continue reading →
The Good Doctor is joining forces with Giles King¬†and Hugh Budden¬†this summer, to deliver a sizzling programme of blues harp workshops in High Wycombe. This is a great chance to develop and hone your skills, meet other players and enjoy a great evening of music with The Jukesters band. Book early!
As regular visitors to the Surgery will know, we hold immense respect for the work Steve Baker does in harmonica education and as a consultant to Hohner harmonicas.¬†Having proudly hosted Steve at our Harpin’ By The Sea Festival in 2013, we recently¬†stumbled upon¬†his Step by Step module for blues harp beginners. Ever curious, we duly purchased a copy so we could take a good look under the hood. Here’s what we found. Continue reading →
Regular visitors to Harp Surgery will know we’re huge fans of¬†Billy Branch.¬†This weekend we look forward to catching him live at the annual Blues Festival in Chicago’s Grant Park. A stunning performer and renowned blues recording artist for over forty years, Billy has a knack for reigniting the¬†blues, then blasting it clean into the new year. Given the chance, you’d be crazy¬†to miss¬†him on the big¬†stage, but of course you¬†can also¬†enjoy¬†his¬†rich back catalogue of recorded material from the¬†comfort of your own back porch.
For the unacquainted, the best point of embarkation¬†is probably the¬†Harp Attack album recorded in 1990 with Junior Wells, James Cotton and Carey Bell. It’s an explicit¬†illustration of Billy’s roots.¬†From here, check out Billy’s personal favourite,¬†Mississippi Flashback from 1992, when he emerged with his own¬†band, Sons of Blues. Then our own favourites from¬†1995 The Blues Keep Following Me Around and 1999 Satisfy Me. You’ll be hard pressed to find a collection¬†more evocative of contemporary electric Chicago blues. Continue reading →
‘Take a loooook up the rail track, from Miami to Canada.‘ With a song on his lips and a bounce¬†in his step, Otis strode¬†into the Surgery to deliver a letter from America. The Doc was plinking and filing away at a Crossover reed plate on his¬†Sjoeberg 7.5 rig. He peered over his¬†glasses and smiled.¬†‘Your¬†vocal chords would¬†benefit from a go on here,¬†Otis old¬†boy!’¬†Otis stopped dead. ‘Whaddya mean?‘ ‘Well, if you were a dressmaker,’ the Doc replied, ‘you’d be tucking up all the frills, instead of which, you’re just..’¬†‘I have the voice of an angel‘ Otis interrupted. Continue reading →
It was the end of another busy week in the village. There’d been so much rain, the¬†duck pond had swamped the High Street and a family of widgeon was¬†floating past the Surgery’s kitchen window. Our Monica had finished mopping up the puddle by the kitchen door and it looked like there would be no way home for a while, short of borrowing the Good Doctor’s waders.
‘Time for a nice hot cup of Yorkshire Tea!’¬†the Good Doctor said cheerily, placing a couple of logs in the AGA and setting the kettle on the hob. ‘Now here’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you for a while,’¬†he continued,¬†‘head or hands?’. ¬†Our Monica looked worried. ‘Do you mean heads or tails?‘ she replied cautiously. ‘No, no, when one plays a trill on one’s gob iron, should one move one’s head or one’s hands?’, the Doctor asked in earnest. ‘Doctor, I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,’¬†giggled Monica. ‘Hmmm, I’ve been weighing it all up..’, the Doctor replied, ‘here’s what I think..’ Continue reading →
It was Guy Fawkes’ night down at the Surgery. Beside the wood burner, Greasy Rob and Shagpile Jim were playing light sabres¬†with their¬†indoor sparklers. From the galley, the Doc was dispensing gl√∂gg and spiced ale. As Otis queued up¬†Homework¬†on the Sonos system, from the foggiest fathoms of his sub-conscience, he quietly muttered, ‘Poor old pigeons.’¬†The Doc set down his mulling poker and turned from the ARGA. ‘Since when did¬†pigeons and¬†The J. Geils Band have anything in common?’ he asked. Otis resurfaced. ‘I was thinking of the fireworks; it’s coming down in¬†stair-rods outside. The Rear Admiral said there’ll¬†be a few damp squibs this year.’
Well you know it’s nine below zero ‘That’d be wet¬†squab mate.’¬†Greasy Rob was chairman¬†of the surgery’s pub quiz team and an authority on trivia.¬†‘Young pigeons are squab.¬†A squib’s a¬†small¬†stick of dynamite; an out-sized banger to you and me. And we’re not talking Cumberland. And don’t you get me started on squid either, sick or otherwise. They’ve set up a marquee by the pond – they’ll be fine.’¬†Otis was back in the building. ‘Alright! Alright!’¬†he growled, ‘no need for the third degree.’
At that moment JJ, the local internet radio presenter,¬†poked his be-spectacled bonce¬†round the parlour door. ‘You should be on Egg-Heads Rob you saucy git. Here, any of you lively¬†lot heard who’s playing The Old Market Theatre tonight?’¬†He flourished a wad of tickets. ‘Only Nine Below flamin’ Zero! It’s gonna be a proper R&B shindig.’¬†Otis sat freeze-framed, still pointing his finger at the guitarist on his album cover. ‘Sup up gentleman, we have some unfinished business!‘ The Doc pulled out his press pass and slipped it into his hatband.
It’s been a while since we posted anything technical from the Harp Surgery, so pull on your overalls and let’s hit the grease pit. We’ve been busy refreshing our harp rig and look forward to reporting on all the fantastic¬†hardware we’ve assembled. Customised harp mics, harp effects pedals and tuning equipment; they’re all here. So let’s start with some real harp mic cheesecake. Continue reading →
I am officially a liberated blues harmonica player. I woke up this morning and¬†admitted to myself that¬†I just don’t get Little Walter. I never have. I’ve¬†been denying the fact for years, cowering¬†in the deepest recesses of the blues closet, fearful of¬†public ridicule. But now I’m out. O U T, out.
Everyone knows mastery of Little Walter’s diatonic blues dialect is an essential step in any half-decent harmonica apprentice’s development. If you can’t recite Juke note for note, name all his hits and tongue block them, you’re¬†nobody. Well, I can play the intro to Juke from draw two¬†or blow three, with or without octaving blow six,¬†I can¬†tongue-block or purse it at will, but I’ve never stopped to learn the whole piece. The reason for¬†which is two-fold. Firstly, there was¬†a timing issue I just couldn’t unravel, whether or not it was a mistake on Walter’s part. Secondly, for love nor money, I simply couldn’t¬†copy Little Walter’s phrasing, nor did I feel the urge to do so. Oh, and there was another reason. Big Walter.
The Good Doctor, Greasy Rob from the garage and Barry the Landlord were enjoying some time out on the patio, shelling a mountain of fresh prawns and sipping ice-cold pilsner. Amidst occasional quacks from the village duck pond and the chirrup of sparrows in the privet hedge, they could detect the approaching¬†whistle of Otis the postman, who was steadily making his rounds.
‘How do all!‘¬†Otis leaned over the Surgery gate, tugging the peak of his hat and holding out¬†a letter for the Doc.¬†‘Thanks Otis old boy, have you time for¬†some of our splendid seafood?’¬†the Doc enquired. ‘Sorry’, Otis replied, ‘I’m in a bit of a rush right now – an Otis rush you could say’. Otis was visibly¬†pleased¬†with¬†his¬†impromptu blues pun.
‘Aaah!‘ said the Doc, ‘You Don’t Love Me!‘ Otis looked a little surprised.¬†‘I wouldn’t go that far‘, he¬†replied, straightening his cap. ‘No, no, no…the letter old boy! It’s from Tom Esposito. He wants to know how to play the riff for You Don’t Love Me by The Allman Brothers’. ‘Now we’re talking!‘ whooped Otis, as he pulled a Special 20 from his pocket, ‘I¬†likes a drop of the AB’s.’