Aki Kumar Interview

Aki, Little Jonny and Johnny CatI ain’t got a nickel and I ain’t got a lousy dime

If you’re a regular at the Surgery, you will recall the Good Doctor’s first meeting with Aki Kumar in 2007 during a Jason Ricci gig in San Francisco’s Biscuit & Blues Club. It was world renowned harp pedagogue, author and music impresario Dave Barrett who had kindly put Aki and the Doc in touch.

Aki KumarSince then Aki has become very good friends with everyone down by the duck pond. So much so that Aki, his good lady and his esteemed guitar partner Little Jonny Lawton came to visit the Surgery in 2013. Everyone had a blast, not least because Dave Ferguson was also staying over. Aki, Jonny and Dave shared a whopping Saturday night gig; on the bill too were Gordon Russell (of Dr.Feelgood fame) and Brighton’s Blues Deluxe.

Well folks he’s back and it’s official. Having mixed it with John Mayall and Kim Wilson in California this month, on Saturday 8.Feb 2014, Aki Kumar will be leading a Little Walter workshop and gracing the stage again with Blues Deluxe at this year’s Harpin’ By The Sea harmonica festival in Brighton & Hove. You’d be crazy to miss it! For those who don’t know Aki already, let us introduce you. It was a summer’s day down at the Surgery…

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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.


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…)

Raw Blues – Will Wilde

Raw Blues album coverI just wanna be your play thing

Will Wilde’s latest album is out now and he’s touring it in Germany next month. Brits can catch the full band at The Hayling Island Blues Weekend in January 2014.  Should you go see him? Should you buy the album? Should you buy the t-shirt?

Yes if you want to witness a young blues artist in his prime, delivering his music with every last ounce of passion. Yes if you’re looking for blues as dirty as engine oil on your jeans. And yes if you’re looking for something to go with your jeans. (more…)

Dave Squared – Who’d Have Thought It Possible?

Our Monica 11Time was away and somewhere else

The Good Doctor was tapping the steering wheel of his bright red Volvo PV as it bowled along the village High Street. From below the dashboard came the rattle and hum not of the dodgy rocker box Greasy Rob had just re-engineered, but the rhythm of Shake A Bone; the album by Son of Dave.

The Doc pulled up outside the Harp Surgery, crunched his way along the path and, dropping his harp case inside the door, spun his homburg across the reception onto the vacant coat stand. Bull’s-eye! Mama like a bit of revolution talk..!’ he growled in a faux basse more reminiscent of Al Pacino than Son of Dave.  (more…)

Yolonda’s Genius by Carol Fenner

Yolanda's Genius 2Yolonda’s Genius – Carol Fenner

The Doc discovered this excellent read while researching harmonica stories for the 12-15 year olds he teaches around the County. It would make an excellent Christmas or birthday present for girls or boys in this age bracket. It’s also a fun read for adults!

Yolonda is smart, tough, and big for her age. Back in Chicago where she used to live, everyone knew better than to mess with her or her little brother, Andrew. Andrew doesn’t talk very much and he can’t read, but he can create unbelievable music on the old harmonica his father left him.

Carol Fenner paints a great picture of US School life, building her story on modern Afro-American culture, including Double-Dutch rope jumping and the annual Chicago Blues Festival. There’s even a cameo featuring  BB King. Fenner also addresses issues of family life, bullying, drugs and special needs learning, with the magic of harmonica music providing the all-important central thread. True genius rearranges old material in a way never seen before. Find out where Andrew’s genius takes him.

Yolonda’s Genius is published by Simon & Schuster (ISBN 0-689-82172-7). Buy at Amazon UK or Amazon US

Au Clair De La Douzième Position (Shedding Light On 12th Position)

365 Tunes For The Four Hole Harmonica Au Clair de la Lune, mon ami Pierrot

Today Otis the Harp Surgery’s postman dropped off a delivery from those lovely people at Amazon.co.uk; Pat Missin’s handsome new manual, The Ultimate Miniature Harmonica Tunebook. And as he trudged round the duck pond, amidst the late snow and expectant quacks, Otis was whistling a familiar French folk tune.

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‘Pour l’amour de Dieu’, the Good Doctor sympathised as he gingerly opened the Surgery’s front door, ‘come inside and warm yourself before you freeze your assets’. ‘Don’t mind if I do’, replied Otis pausing from his musical méandre, ‘Get that kettle on. Mine’s a Julie Andrews’.  (more…)

Doublecrossed and Blue

Steve Baker 1I’m gonna pack my bag

A third annual day of Harpin’ By The Sea completed, and another bucket load of memories collected!

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This year we had the very great honour of welcoming Steve Baker to his UK homeland, fresh from his tour of India. During a full programme of harmonica workshops,  Steve offered his wisdom and expertise to a select group of advanced harmonica players, many of whom had travelled across the country to meet him. Meanwhile over forty newcomers attended the workshop for complete beginners with the Harp Surgery’s Good Doctor. (more…)

The Moothie

Happy St.Andrew’s Day

Cantie Saunt Dandie’s Day tae ye! Or if you’re a speaker of Scottish Gaelic, Beannachtai ne Feile Aindréas!

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We had considered running an article on how to play Amazing Grace, but discovered, to our surprise, this may not be the traditional Caledonian Air we’d imagined. We also thought about the Sky Boat Song, or Scotland The Brave, but harp tab for this is freely available on the interweb. So instead, we decided to post an introduction to the tradition of the Scottish mouth organ – or Moothie. And, as a small bonus, we’ve thrown in a neat little bagpipe trick we picked up from Joe Filisko..


Blues Harp Radio – Radio Caprice

Blues Radio IconCruisin’ and playin’ the radio

The Good Doctor had closed the Harp Surgery for the day and was just settling down to a medicinal Jim Beam when the doorbell rang. It was Otis the postman with some extra news for blues harp fans.

Otis had been messing around with the Internet Radio App on his new bluespad and stumbled across Radio Caprice’s twenty-four hour Harmonica Blues channel. Perfect for after-hours listening at the Surgery.

With no particular place to go

Radio Caprice is a free Internet Radio Station broadcast from Russia and can be located through most Internet Radio search engines. Listeners are treated to the classic tones of masters such as James Cotton, Big Walter, Rod Piazza, George Butler and Junior Wells, as well as one or two very pleasant contemporary surprises. Ron Sorin, The Pera Joe Blues Band and Sven Zetterburg are just a couple of examples the Doc and Otis grooved on down to.

Switching to cold shots of Stolyichnaya in celebration, Otis and the Doc stoked the winter coal fire and kicked back for an evening of top class entertainment. David Rotundo’s That Girl had them shimmying like a pair of old hippies on flower power. Nostrovia Radio Caprice!