Calling all Junior and Youth players

Your chance to shine!

The UK’s International Harmonica Festival 2017 takes place 28th-29th October, in Bristol (UK). There are workshops and trade stands to enjoy, and on Saturday 28th October the annual music competition takes place, with dedicated sections for Junior players (7-11 yrs) and Youth players (12-15 yrs).

Some young players have already chosen their pieces and entered the competition online, but there is plenty of time for you to do the same, and you have all summer to practise! Simply choose a song you’ve enjoyed learning (one you could perform for two to three minutes), or something completely new, and the National Harmonica League (NHL) team will help you bring it all together. There are separate categories for chromatic and diatonic harmonicas, and sections for the different styles of music chosen.

The cost involved is one Under 18 day ticket and one Under 18 competition entry, which comes to £18.00 (GBP). Mum’s, Dad’s and immediate family can accompany competition entrants free of charge as chaperones and supporters. Full details and tickets are online at the National Harmonica League website here. Once you’ve bought your ticket, you can submit the details of your competition piece here.

Guitar Licks For Harmonica – You Don’t Love Me

Allman BrothersYou don’t love me, pretty baby

The Good Doctor, Greasy Rob from the garage and Barry the Landlord were enjoying some time out on the patio, shelling a mountain of fresh prawns and sipping ice-cold pilsner. Amidst occasional quacks from the village duck pond and the chirrup of sparrows in the privet hedge, they could detect the approaching whistle of Otis the postman, who was steadily making his rounds.

Shrimps and BeerHow do all!‘ Otis leaned over the Surgery gate, tugging the peak of his hat and holding out a letter for the DocThanks Otis old boy, have you time for some of our splendid seafood?’ the Doc enquired. ‘Sorry’, Otis replied, ‘I’m in a bit of a rush right now – an Otis rush you could say’. Otis was visibly pleased with his impromptu blues pun.

‘Aaah!‘ said the Doc, ‘You Don’t Love Me!‘ Otis looked a little surprised. I wouldn’t go that far‘, he replied, straightening his cap. ‘No, no, no…the letter old boy! It’s from Tom Esposito. He wants to know how to play the riff for You Don’t Love Me by The Allman Brothers’. ‘Now we’re talking!‘ whooped Otis, as he pulled a Special 20 from his pocket, ‘I likes a drop of the AB’s.’

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Umcha, Umcha – Brothers of Mothershovel


In a good country, virtues wouldn’t be necessary. Everybody could be quite ordinary.
Mother Courage Bertold Brecht

All you young people, now you listen to me
It was a chilly spring morning. Wood smoke whispered from the Harp Surgery chimney. Unshaven, the Doc stood admiring the laburnum, a steaming mug of Ringtons in one hand and a toasted tea cake in the other. He was listening to Rory McLeod’s Farewell Welfare and contemplating the day ahead when there was a knock on the Surgery’s back door.

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Wiping warm butter from his chin, Doc turned down his Sonos and opened the top gable. ‘Morning saviour! A package for you from the dark side.’ It was Otis the mailman. ‘Really? Where’s that then?’, the Doc murmured blearily. ‘Croydon,’ Otis answered, reaching in for one of Monica’s warm buns.

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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.

Dreams Enough To Share – Ray Jackson Interview

Ray Jackson 1iThe Doc was preparing dinner after a knotty day re-tuning knackered harps, when there was a knock on the Surgery’s back window. Wiping sun-dried tomato oil from his fingers, he unlatched the top half of the kitchen door.

It was Stomping Stu from the local allotment. ‘Aaaaah, hello Doc!’ Stu spluttered, cycling hat askew and cheeks flushed, ‘I was just passing and thought you might like these’. He waved a bunch of purple-sprouting broccoli. ‘Excellent timing dear boy,’ the Doc replied, ‘come on in. Fancy some pasta?’.

‘Sounds v-very nice, thank you,’ Stu stammered. ‘I’ve b-been reading your old post about Paul Jones and the B-Blues B-Band’s Flat Foot Sam track’, said Stu, initiating the evening’s topic of conversation. ‘Ah yes,’ Doc replied, ‘a very nice man and a great band. Was that the post about Knebworth 1980?’. ‘Yup! I think you said Lindisfarne were on the same bill. I wonder what ever happened to Ray Jackson? He was a handy harp player’.

Lindisfarne 1976 Poster ii‘Jacka? I believe he left the band a few years later when they recorded a rap version of Fog On The Tyne with Gazza. Felt they were selling out. He’s since opened his own art shop. Some of the band met at Art College; I think he designed their album covers. Does his own paintings of vintage busses now; pretty canny like.’ The Doc attempted a poor Geordie accent. ‘They were from Newcastle Doc, not Uttar Pradesh’, Stu chuckled. The Doc disappeared for a few moments.

He returned with a copy of Nicely Out Of Tune, grinning from ear to ear. ‘Sorry if that was a bit rude of me’, Stu apologised. ‘No offence taken old boy, my Geordie accent’s a bit ropy. I’ve just been on the blower and I may have tracked Jacka down’. He hurried into the study, slipped the LP from its sleeve and placed it on the turn table. As the pink Charisma label revolved, the captivating strains of Lady Eleanor rolled from the stereo system, complete with Ray’s resonant mandolin.

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Harp Accesories

pinegrove-logoHigh quality leather accessories for harp players

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. 8-pack-leather-harmonica-case-iIn 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.

single-harmonica-pouchBack 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.

ever-ready-case-iI 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.

Twenty Questions with Carlos del Junco

carlos-del-junco-1iDown the road, came a Junco partner

The Harp Surgery was nearly ready for Christmas. Our Monica was vacuuming loose pine needles from under the Christmas Tree, while Shag-pile Jim clung to the step ladder, trying to unhitch himself from the top branches. ‘Looks like you’ve caught your ding-dong merrily on high Jimbo‘, the Doc chuckled. ‘Another comment like that Doc, and you’ll be replacing the Christmas Fairy,‘ Jim muttered.

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Now, now Jim, ’tis the season to be jolly,‘ the Doc reminded him, ‘let me top up your Glühwein old boy…it’ll bring some colour to your cheeks.‘ The Doc nudged Monica and pointed at Jim’s builder’s cleavage. ‘Well how do you expect me to get the bloody Fairy up there?’ Jim moaned. ‘Have you tried bending?’ the Doc asked. ‘How’s that gonna help?’ Jim wailed. ‘Not you old boy, the tree.‘ The Doc was biting his lip.

Talking of bending, the Doc added, ‘I’ve just been chatting with Carlos del Junco. That man must eat soda crystals every time he plays harmonica.’ ‘What are you taking about?’ quizzed Monica. ‘Well he gets clean round every bend,‘ the Doc replied. His gag shot over Monica’s head like the Red Arrows at Farnborough Airshow.

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Mitt Gamon Interview – Part 1

Strawberrieds and Cream iIt was a humid summer’s day. Beyond the duck pond, the Rear Admiral’s mower muttered to itself and occasionally spat stones at his prizewinning parade of pink floribunda. Next to the Tickled Trout, a canopy of elder flowers floated in the warm breeze, while hover flies patrolled the cow parsley below, pretending to be bees. In the harp surgery kitchen, the Good Doctor was preparing cordials and halving strawberries for afternoon tea. He flourished sugar across the fruit from a shallow silver spoon. ‘How many songbirds fly to and fro, in an English country ga-ar… what the?’ A manilla envelope boomeranged through the window, clipped his ear and skidded to a halt on the kitchen table. The sugar spoon fell to the floor.

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Big River Harp – Step by Step

Step by Step starter set iStarter Set for Blues Harp by Steve Baker

As regular visitors to the Surgery will know, we hold immense respect for the work Steve Baker does in harmonica education and as a consultant to Hohner harmonicas. Having proudly hosted Steve at our Harpin’ By The Sea Festival in 2013, we recently stumbled upon his Step by Step module for blues harp beginners. Ever curious, we duly purchased a copy so we could take a good look under the hood. Here’s what we found. (more…)

Vintage Ampro 104 / Shure CR80A (and memories of Gary Primich)

The Harmonica Microphone SeriesYou can tune a harmonica

Take a loooook up the rail track, from Miami to Canada.‘ With a song on his lips and a bounce in his step, Otis strode into the Surgery to deliver a letter from America. The Doc was plinking and filing away at a Crossover reed plate on his Sjoeberg 7.5 rig. He peered over his glasses and smiled. ‘Your vocal chords would benefit from a go on here, Otis old boy!’ Otis stopped dead. ‘Whaddya mean?‘ ‘Well, if you were a dressmaker,’ the Doc replied, ‘you’d be tucking up all the frills, instead of which, you’re just..’ ‘I have the voice of an angel‘ Otis interrupted. (more…)