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…)

Soul Limbo – Split Rivitt (Part 2)

We respectfully dedicate these pages to the friends and family of Barney Jeffrey 1958-2008

Limbering up
Booker T. & The M.G.'s* - Soul-Limbo (1968, Vinyl) | DiscogsIn 1968, the soul label Stax broke away from its parent Atlantic. The first album to be released on the independent Stax label was Soul Limbo, featuring the instrumental of the same name, by“Unofficially the MGs were named after the band leader’s car”Booker T. & The MGs. The band’s leader was Booker T.Jones (Hammond Organ). Officially The MGs was short for The Memphis Group, comprising Steve Cropper (guitar), Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn (bass) and Al Jackson Jnr (drums). Unofficially the MGs were named after the band leader’s car. Booker T. himself has corroborated this piece of trivia. His earlier outfit was called the Triumphs. Clearly he had a penchant for British roadsters.

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Collectively of course, Booker T. & The MGs backed all the soul greats including Wilson PickettEddie Floyd and Sam & Dave. Indeed their names are often credited as the co-songwriters. In the 1960s, two white musicians working deep inside the heart of a black music phenomenon was unusual. Cropper and Dunn later formed the nucleus of the Blues Brothers Band.

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Soul Limbo – Split Rivitt (Part 3)

We respectfully dedicate these pages to the friends and family of Barney Jeffrey 1958-2008

The Venue, London

Split the bill
‘We did start a studio album together, but I wasn’t happy with what was going on so I walked out. They said they’d produce it themselves. I told them, you’ll see what happens, knowing full well they were unaware of all the pitfalls. Mark ‘Harpdog’ Hughes also played Chromatic. He was a normal kind of guy. Probably the quietest and most sensible band member. My studio notes show he was playing through a Shure Echo microphone. I think we added more harp on top and bounced it all down. I seem to remember asking him to harmonise and layer it. We were aiming at our own wall of sound. I think the end result stands on its own merit without impinging on the original.’

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‘The track never truly got the exposure it deserved because the distributor, Pinnacle, got into financial difficulty. But it was on BBC Radio 1’s A list and got a lot of airplay. In fact it charted briefly in the top 20. I don’t know how the track was chosen originally. I have always been a big Booker T. fan, so maybe I had something to do with it. Anyway I love off-the-wall stuff. I once recorded the Dambusters Theme with a Punk Band and tried to sell it to the Germans. It didn’t get very far.’ (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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