BLues Traveler

TO: internet:harp-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
RE: John Popper

Spoke with John Popper last night and he filled me in on the
background to his epistle.

It seems that somebody uploaded a fictitious description of him
being in a cutting contest against Bruce Willis and Howard Levy
at a "harmonica convention in Chicago." I had no way of knowing
this, not having direct Internet access, and the full context was
not provided in the cross posting. His reply was a denial of this
false story, with some justifiable anger.

However, when we speak in anger, we often reveal our prejudices,
and I think he defnitely did. I had heard these ones expressed
before and felt it was time to call him on these issues.

I told him I'd seen the post and told him the title I'd given to
my reply, which he found amusing, and told him I had disagreed
with him on some things, without going into detail. He ruefully
admitted that he'd been a candidate for the small penis club
lately, as he had been in a blues club recently and heard a guy
play easy stuff and had to suppress an urge to approach the
stage. Then we went on to other subjects.

Now, I like John, and I like it that he's opinionated. But
opinionated people have to grow in their thinking or they become
crashing old bores in a big hurry. John's a big and clever guy
who might scare people off, and I think he needs the challenge.

By the way, the show was a lot of fun, drawing largely from the
first album, with the inclusion of tunes like "Gloria" which
segued into "Sweet Talking Hippie," "Come Together," and the Lee
Oskar/War hit "Low Rider," which surrounded "Go Outside and
Drive". John played a really nice, melodic guitar solo (very
different from his harp playing, and a welcome complement to it)
on a Les Paul in the middle of "She Left Me," in addition to
12-string and harmonica. Pete Sears (ex Starship) played
keyboards on several tunes, and Gregg Allman's guitarist, whose
name keeps eluding me, played some really pretty guitar fills on
"Crystal Flame," which closed the show. Near the end, John was
throwing harps out into the audience like crazy - he must have
unburdened himself of twenty harmonicas over the course of the

At one point I thought I heard organ backing Chan Kinchla's
guitar solo. But Sears had already left the stage. It was John,
playing through a Leslie emulator, just using single notes and
two-note chords to fatten up the sound of the band. Nice touch.
He later described his harp mike - three buttons on it - fast and
slow Leslie, and distortion. He's thinking about adding an on-off
switch to cope with feedback, which was an audible problem last
night, but would like to avoid it.

The band is doing an exhaustive tour, hitting every little nook
and cranny. On this leg they had hopped direct from Minneapolis
to San Francisco by bus, then were headed to LA and Ventura in
southern California, Sacramento, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver,
back to mid-California again (Laguna Seca), then back to New
York, with some European dates followed by the Horde tour.
Somewhere in there they'll be coming to San Francisco again to
mix their new album, which will be out in August. It's going to
be more jammy, like their live shows - the record company
actually asked for this.

Winslow Yerxa
Harmonica Information Press

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