Harp Surgery is delighted to announce that the Good Doctor is once again leading the Beginners’ Workshop at Blues Saturday in High Wycombe 2017. Please note that the event’s date has been brought forward to take some pressure off the summer rush. It’s now scheduled into the run up to May half term week (Whitsun). We’re looking forward to the amazing talents of Johnny Hewitt and Paul Gillings too. Tickets here. Great news is that The Blackjacks will also be performing live in the evening.
For the past two summers, I have had the great pleasure of leading the beginner’s harmonica workshops at Blues Saturday in High Wycombe (UK). Organised by the utterly wonderful Aron Woodall’s (Big Azza to his mates), Blues Saturday is a great day, and night, out. In 2015, Azza adopted ideas from our annual Harpin’ By The Sea festival, and now produces his own programme for folks closer to the Central Southern UK. It’s a fabulous event, which we highly recommend. This year it takes place just before the May half-term break and you can find out more by clicking the red text in our workshop link to the right of the screen.
Back on message. Last year, half way through the day, Azza gathered his attendees for the prize draw. And as he announced the list of sponsors, heads turned involuntarily at the mention of Pinegrove Leather. Was this a secret fun day for harp swingers, as well as slingers? Was there cheap furniture up for grabs? The attendees shuffled their feet and avoided eye contact.
We needn’t have worried. Pinegrove is synonymous with top-of-the-range, hand made, leather accoutrements for musicians. Their portfolio includes shoulder straps and plectrum cases for guitarists, stick holders for drummers, and a host of well-designed bags and pouches for harmonica players. Everything is made in England from high quality leather, which is beautifully hand stitched and expertly finished. Proper craftsmanship, with highly desirable results.
I contacted Rod Boyes at Pinegrove’s Yorkshire headquarters in Hebden Bridge for a chat, and his knowledge about the professional needs of harp enthusiasts was immediately apparent. He ran through his range of harmonica carriers, all of which are illustrated on Pinegrove’s website, and we talked about new ideas he’s developing. Pinegrove’s products are now sought after, and being shipped, right around the globe. And we can proudly announce that Pinegrove has also agreed to sponsor this year’s Harpin’ By The Sea festival.
Welcome to the second instalment of our interview with Mitt Gamon. In this half, Mitt talks about the London Punk scene and his involvement with the Gang of Four, Ruts DC and Ian Dury. We ask him about the rig he uses, his latest album Harmonica Electronica and get a hint of an exciting new project in that’s in the pipeline.
What precipitated your move into the 1970’s/1980’s punk scene?
In the middle of the 70’s, Jazz Fusion had happened. I used to frequent a pub down at the Oval called The Cricketers. One of the resident bands there was S.F.X. and they used to let me jam one song every week. Alan Murphy (RIP) played guitar with them, as well as Kate Bush and a few others. Anyway, I got fronted enough by a friend to make a single, and so I asked S.F.X. if they’d be my studio band. Lucky old me. Mitt and the Modules was born, and the first single (and last) was called Ha-Money-Ka. It tanked. But not surprisingly, as on the cover, I have short died blonde hair. Yes, that whole ‘punk’ thing was occurring. I followed that single closely with Chairman Youth, a band formed around the Archway area. It tanked too! (more…)
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.
So many smiles down through the years
Harps down, heads up! Harp Surgery has been chatting with the lovely Jeanette Lodovici, former wife of the late great William Clarke, about her latest CD release: William Clarke – Live Bootleg Cassette Anthology. Read on to find out how you can win a copy!
Jeanette explained how the project came about: “There are so many pirate recordings out there of my late husband. Two of his fans sent me some of this bootleg music. Unfortunately it was poor quality, so I sent it to three different studios and finally we got a decent sound out of this badly recorded material.
I still had my doubts on the quality of the recording though. I promised Bill that I would never put anything ‘bad’ out of him. So I sent a few songs to eight people I respect. Seven of them told me it was great stuff and the quality really didn’t matter. Well, I went with the majority. (more…)
Congratulations to our competition winners
We know that many of you have been waiting for news of the competition result and now that all the formalities have been completed, we can bring you up to date. Thanks for your patience! Thanks also to Bertram Becher at Seydel Söhne for making this special event possible.
As advertised, on the 11th January three names were drawn at random from our pool of correct replies and the winners were notified by email. We are delighted to announce that the lucky recipients of a Seydel e-shopping voucher are Matthew Squires (USA), Tony Westlake (USA) and Jörge Lange (Germany). Congratulations to Matthew, Tony and Jörge and a big thank you to everyone who sent in an entry. (more…)
Not Now, Arthur!
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.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Holy Diatonic Batman!
Elwood The Apprentice had just finished wrapping his last set of replacement reed plates for Christmas when from somewhere downstairs… Zap! Wh@ck, Whåp, B#ff, Biƒf, P*w, Zôwie, Spl@tt, Tºot.. He ran to the Good Doctor’s study.. Holy Diatonic Batman! What in the world is this? Revolving walls, hidden rooms, disguises? What is the Good Doctor’s wild secret? Has he ventured into the night to engage in mortal combat with modal meddlers, chromatic criminals, or some overblown oddballs intent on jamming his reeds for good? Is that him caterwauling in the Harp Surgery’s outhouse with Cat Woman? Or has he stepped out incognito to practice his two draw bends? Quick Otis, to the Harp Mobile.
Relax dear reader, the Doc is simply preparing a seasonal stocking filler for you to rehearse between your Christmas pudding and the Queen’s speech. You remember the old Batman & Robin TV series? All handbag fights and satin knickers. Well bizarrely enough the theme tune is actually a great resource for honing those two draw bends. Grab a C major harp from your bat utility belt and join us for some caped crusading.
[Note: competition now closed.]
Harps down, heads up! Our lovely friends at Seydel Söhne are offering you the chance to win an e-voucher to the tune of €30.00 (US residents $40.00). If you submit three correct answers to our quiz before midnight (GMT) Jan.10 2010 and are one of three lucky names drawn at random from the Harp Surgery’s ugly hat, an e-voucher will be winging its way to your inbox.
All you have to do is study our competition questions, find the correct answers on the Seydel Söhne website and drop us an e-mail, stating your country of residence and your three competition answers (you can also access the Seydel Söhne site by clicking the yellow logo in our Partners menu to the right). (more…)
The Hoodoo Man would be 75 today.
Harmonica great Junior Wells was born December 9th 1934. It’s remarkable to think that someone who played with Muddy Waters in the early days would have been so young today (he was 19 in 1952 when he joined Muddy’s band, and died in 1998, aged 63).
I like Junior a great deal, so I’m celebrating him today. His harmonica style strikes me as being deceptively simple: he knew when not to play. And when he decided to play, he could make that thing wail like a cat being set on fire.