Re: [Harp-L] Les Paul the harmonica player
Excellent post Mick….sounds like a great book! Thought I'd share a little experience…..
I see Les' son Russ Paul quite often around NY-NJ and will ask him if there are any recordings float in around of Les Paul on harmonica!
Anyway, Les used to play every Monday Night in NYC and if you wanted you could sit in with him…
When I got on stage and shook his hand he said…."Well I heard you play Harmonica, you BETTER be good 'cause I started out on that thing!"
He asked me what I wanted to play so I said, "How about 'Body and Soul' in 5 b's…he just smiled and we had a blast once I calmed down from meeting him, what sweet man he was …and had a great stage persona and presence!
What an honor to share his stage….enjoy the rest of that book!
On Dec 24, 2013, at 4:13 PM, Mick Zaklan <mzaklan@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> Just started Mary Shaughnessy's excellent biography of guitarist Les
> Paul and was surprised to find that Les was also an accomplished harmonica
> Apparently Les was eight years old when a guy digging a sewer line in
> front of the boy's house broke out a harmonica and started playing. Les,
> mesmerized, camped out in front of the laborer and showed such interest
> that the ditch digger gave him the instrument. His mother insisted on
> boiling the harp in water and her "attempt to sterilize the instrument
> helped initiate the first of many sound experiments her son would conduct
> over the years. Les found that the waterlogged harmonica gave him a
> bubbling, bluesy sound that made him different from all the other kids in
> town. From that day forward, he got into the habit of soaking his mouth
> organ in a pail of water for a few hours before playing. Little did he
> know that this was a standard practice among veteran blues
> performers........"Les almost broke me buying harmonicas," his mother later
> recalled, "and he insisted on having the best, not the ones from the dime
> "One of his favorite musicians was Deford Bailey, Grand Ole Opry's first
> black star, famed for his smoky, bluesy harmonica sound. Les tuned in the
> Opry broadcast every Saturday night so he could study the veteran
> entertainer's soulful style of blowing."
> There are a couple of photos in the book showing Les blowing a
> double-sided harmonica. One of them shows the harp in a rack, circa 1930.
> Les claimed that he invented the rack and could flip the harp with his
> chin, going from a C to a G grid. According to the author, however, Les
> stole this idea from a radio entertainer named "Pie Plant Pete," who he
> idolized. Pete "held his double-reed mouth harp in place with a U-shaped
> shoulder brace fashioned from a piece of No. 9 wire. As far as Pie Plant
> Pete knew, his harmonica holder 'was original and the only one of its kind
> in the world.'" This would be mid-1920's.
> Anyway, interesting stuff. The ditchdigger who introduced Les Paul to
> the harmonica had asked the boy to play it. When Les said he couldn't, the
> man said something that Les insisted became a governing principle his life
> from that day on: "Don't SAY you can't until you've PROVED you can't."
> Though Les did a ton of live and radio performing under the name
> "Rhubarb Red" with his guitar and racked harp, I don't know if any examples
> of this exists.
> Mick Zaklan
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