Dear reader, indulge us in a moment of unadulterated nostalgia, courtesy of our very dear friend, The Riverboat Captain. Bandanas and bullet mics at the ready..
King King was a former Chinese restaurant on the north west corner of 6th and La Brea in Hancock Park. In the early 90s, Monday night regulars The Red Devils staked their claim to be Los Angeles’ biggest bar band, drawing in city bluesheads and celebrity scenesters alike with their raw, straight-ahead juke joint sound. (more…)
In the final installment of the albums that first got us hooked on blues harp, The Captain picks out.. a blues concept album??
The Captain’s choice: One night way back in 1991, listening to Paul Jones’ blues show on BBC Radio 2, a track sneaked out of the speakers, lodged itself in my brain and wouldn’t go away. The low hum of a vintage slide guitar, sensitive bass notes, and a brush-powered shuffle with the kind of deep, rich, effortless harmonica tone it taks half a lifetime to achieve.
The song was ‘Stranger Blues‘ from ‘Do Not Disturb’, the Black Top Records debut of the James Harman Band.
Before I describe it, an admission. Having been asked to write about my ideal harmonica starter pack, or an album that will convert sceptics.. well, I couldn’t say 100% that it’s either. It’s a (gulp) concept album, with a loose theme of the trials and tribulations of touring and being in a band. It’s a ‘band’ album.. the variety of rhythms and sounds are effectively bound together and presented as a great blues record by a group of musicians who really know what they are doing. It DOES have harmonica (how could it not, with one of the West Coast’s leading harmonica exponents at the helm?) but it’s not a harmonica album per se. It IS, however, in my opinion, essential.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a little bit of Morecambe and Wise, so here’s a tribute to classic comedy.. and a forgotten harmonica hero.
Arthur Tolcher was born in Staffordshire in 1922, and his family theatrical history meant he was destined to tread the boards of music hall. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of popular tunes and and played a variety of harmonicas, interspersing that with sight gags and jokes. It would do Arthur a disservice to call him a ‘novelty act’ since he was tremendously accomplished and was called upon for sessions whenever a harmonica was required.
Eric and Ernie often toured with Arthur, but as their star rose, his career seemed to stall. However, the two comedians found a little place in the TV spotlight for Arthur. Dressed in full concert garb, harmonica in hand, he would rush on at odd moments (or after the credits rolled), and would just manage a brief burst of the Spanish Gypsy Dance before Eric cut him off with a classic catchphrase.
Here are Eric and Ernie happily explaining Eric’s classic paper bag trick to David Frost (you’ll all be trying this at home) when Arthur dashes on for a quick tootle.
Arthur passed away in 1987 and was the subject of a retrospective on BBC Radio 4 in 2007, his story told by Roy Hudd. Thanks for the memory, Arthur.