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.

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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…)

That’s All Folks!

Looney Tunes outro on harmonica

Otis has been talking about a Surf Guitarist he heard busking in the underground walkway under London’s Science Museum. Apparently he was so good, everyone jumped in the soup for a slide.

A detail that caught Otis’s ear was the lick the guitarist added to the end of Secret Agent Man by The Ventures. It was the familiar outro to Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes cartoons. He played it as a group of children were passing by and it turned every single head.

Sufferin’ succotash!
We’ve tried it on the harmonica and it’s all there! You might like to add it to your repertoire. Grab a C major 10 hole diatonic and make out in first position (straight harp).

5B   4D..4B   4D   5B..4D..5B  
4B   4D..4D..4D..4D
4D   2D   3D   4D
5B   4B-5B-6B  (….gliss to 10B)

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Now show all your friends. Unless of course they’re hunting Wabbits. In which case, be vewwy, vewwy quiet.

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.

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‘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…)

Irish Harmonica – Garryowen

Eireann go Brach.. Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Virtually forgotten in the post-war revival of traditional Irish music, Celtic and folk harmonica has recently enjoyed a massive rise in popularity. This is largely down to the work of Brendan Power and Mick Kinsella, both of whom joined us at the UK Harmonica Festival in Bristol 2010. To celebrate St Patrick’s day, let’s investigate the Irish harmonica style a little further and learn a great tune called Garryowen.

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Brendan’s 1993 recording New Irish Harmonica ultimately led to his tenure in the Riverdance show, bringing him to the forefront of the Irish harmonica style. Meanwhile, native Irishman Mick Kinsella drew on compatriot Eddie Clarke as the major inspiration for his Celtic harping. Both are active on the Irish folk music scene today, as well as TV, Radio and Film. Did we recently hear Brendan on the soundtrack of the Leap Year movie? (more…)

The Harmonica At War – Lili Marlene [..with tab]

LILI MARLENE [..with tab]

Underneath the lantern, by the barrack gate

Had we been shovelled onto a grimy conveyor belt and pitched alongside millions of innocents into the inferno of the Great War (1914-18), there is a strong chance we would have had a musical companion. An emollient for the mental and physical agonies of front line duty.

Portability, cost and availability predetermined the choice of instrument. And while a variety found their way to the front, it was the humble harmonica that became the proprietary antedote to the sting of industrialised warfare. And it’s probably the reason why so many Europeans still relate stories of a family elder who played the mouth organ.

This Remembrance Day is no different to any other – they are equally important.  As Santayana famously wrote: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. It’s just that this year we have the novelty of an extra number 11. At the eleventh hour (GMT), on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month –  of the eleventh year – we remember the fallen.

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