[Harp-L] Take this bluegrass elite, Bill Monroe full-time harmonica player confirmed
I know everybody's always talking about blues on here, but hopefully there's some other bluegrass harp players, who might take great comfort in this:
I had always known Bill Monroe had a harmonica player touring with him, DeFord Bailey, for years, but recently I came across something very interesting that I'll certainly use for ammo next time some jackass says something about no harmonica in bluegrass at a jam.
I was talking to my grandpa last night, he was telling me about a buddy of his who used to be one of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys in the late 50s and in 1960. The guy is local, so I'm planning to write something for the local paper. I was confirming that this guy was a member here: doodah.net/bgb, which is a list of all the various Bluegrass Boys. I came across this there:
"As a Blue Grass Boy: Curley Bradshaw played guitar and harmonica with the Blue Grass Boys, and apparently was featured on harmonica in performance. Unfortunately this harmonica playing is undocumented; the one recording session on which he appeared has him only playing an inaudible second guitar.
Recording Sessions: 2/13/1945"
I've been able to confirm this from a very reliable source, Jim of Jim and Jesse. I found an interview with Jim McReynolds, of Jim and Jesse where Jim spoke of seeing Bill as a boy in Virginia in 1944 and mentions Curley playing harmonica.
It is unforunate Curly was never recorded on harp with Bill Monroe. But this is something all bluegrass players should remember to keep an open mind about the harp. This 1944-1945 band was the band that formed Bluegrass, this is the Monroe, Flatt, Scruggs combo that created the style.
I've figured out a way to play bluegrass on the harp that works very well in bluegrass, but I still hear how there's no harps in bluegrass. I wish these people would realize just how revolutionary and open minded musically Bill was, Bill had no plans of ever adding a banjo before he met Earl Scruggs in North Carolina and heard that Earl had found a new way to play it. Lester Flatt, ironically, was critical of Bill hiring Earl, saying the banjo does not belong in bluegrass. Now look how important it is. Those who have not heard Bill's original "Kentucky Waltz," might be surprised at the primary rhythm, it's played by an organ.
So why did Bill never get another harp player? Probably he never saw one again that had a style he liked. Remember the deal with Earl Scruggs, it was not the instrument that a man played that concerned Bill, it was how he played it, and how that style applied to Bill's vision. The recording Session Curley attended, playing a guitar that can't be heard, tells us something... Bill did not hire him for his guitar playing.
If somebody can find a Curley Bradshaw on harp recording from another part of his playing career, I would be most indebted. To get a glimpse of what Bill Monroe's vision for harp in bluegrass might have sounded like would be most rewarding.
Elk River Harmonicas
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