Whammer Jammer […with tab]

J. Geils Band - Full HouseYou gonna get it all down, get it all night, get it all right, get it out of sight and get it down baby?

Here’s the top entry in our ‘I wanna play like that’ hit list. Originally recorded on the J.Geils Band studio album The Morning After in 1971, Whammer Jammer reappeared a year later on the classic live album Full House. It is a power harping beast of the highest order.

Like the lunar landing, or the fall of the Berlin Wall, every power harp fan can remember when and where they were first Whammered! So, it’s time to reminisce a little, do some research and then, with the help of modern technology, deconstruct the song for you. Key of A major ten hole diatonics harps at the ready..
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Misty – Jerry Portnoy [..with tab]

On my own, would I wander through this wonderland alone.. Misty (Johnny Burke)

In 1995, Jerry Portnoy recorded his landmark harmonica album Home Run Hitter with The Streamliners. The record’s producer was Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds, while Duke Robillard contributed guitar and vocals to the project. The result is a collection of songs that bounce, groove and swing like a beast.

Listen to

For harmonica players, the album provides many rewarding avenues for exploration. This is partly owing to the diverse rhythms and styles Jerry uses, but more importantly because of his unerring attention to detail. The title track Home Run Hitter for example, is one of the finest examples of first position blues harping you’ll ever hear. If this position is new to you, or you just need to brush it up a bit, grab an E harp and play along.

In Misty (the 1954 jazz standard written by pianist Erroll Garner, adopted by Johnny Mathis with lyrics by Johnny Burke), Jerry demonstrates his ability to hit and hold those awkward cross-harp bends that would leave most of us audibly exposed. Add in the exciting transition from ballad to swing time at the midway point, and we have two and half minutes’ worth of sublime jazz. (more…)

Country Harping With The Rolling Stones – Sweet Virginia [..with tab]

Wadin’ through the waste stormy winter

All these years on, and old big lips and the band are up on stage delivering their special brand of rock’n’roll. And I still like it!

We got a call from our good friend Gordon Russell this week, asking if Harp Surgery had a student who could add the harp line to something one of his protégés was performing locally. ‘What’s the song?’ the Good Doctor asked. ‘Sweet Virginia in A, by the Stones’, replied the ex-Doctor Feelgood axe-meister.

Listen to

‘No sweat me old mucker, we’ve got just the person.’ Cue Harp Surgery’s junior player of the year 2011 and 2012, Josh Cooper, age 10. Josh and the Doc duly put their heads together and this is what happened.. (more…)

Get Out Of Jail Free

Norton & BonnieDo not pass GO

Greasy Rob the car mechanic, Otis the mailman, Stomping Stu from the village allotments and the Doc were busy playing a game of Friday night Monopoly on the kitchen table. A large brown pot of Taylor’s Yorkshire Tea steamed away next to Otis who was also banker for the weekend biscuit assortment. Otis had hotels on the home straight, Rob had all four stations and the Doc had a strong collection of reds and yellows. Meanwhile Stu was casually thumbing his Water Works and keeping one eye on Bow Street. (more…)

Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring – J.S. Bach [..with tab]

Switched On BachHark, what peaceful music rings!

[To the Memory of the great Herbert Harris, Choirmaster and Organist of All Saints Church, Harpenden, UK].

Welcome to the Harp Surgery, where one minute we’re honking the blues and next minute we’re power harping on a tangent. Time now to turn the clocks back three hundred years to the ornamentation and etiquette of the Baroque.

Whether or not you’ve studied classical music, it’s a certainty you’ve encountered its superstars. In absentia, these dudes have colonised elevators, call centres hold messages and even TV theme tunes (check out The Antiques Roadshow ) for decades. Our house favourite is Johann Sebastian Bach. Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring, composed in the early 1700’s, was regular fayre for the Good Doctor as a junior.  And somehow, Bach was hip. (more…)

Boogie On Reggae Woman..[with tab]

Stevie Wonder diatonic harmonica

It was 1974. With a string of hit singles under his belt, Stevie Wonder recorded Boogie On Reggae Woman amidst some more reflective compositions for his new album, Fullfillingness’ First Finale.

The song’s title is slightly misleading. This is no Trench Town rasta vibe. There is a reggae skank for reference, but underneath it’s as fundamentally funk as Superstition and just as ground breaking.

For Harp Surgery fans, what makes the song especially interesting, is its infusion of a bluesy piano line and some highly expressive first-position blues harping. Let’s look more closely..

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