[Harp-L] What first attracted you to harmonica? Why did you learn to play it?
Sat Mar 4 11:51:57 EST 2017
Peter Madcat Ruth wrote:
>In 1964 I heard Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry on the radio and I was hooked.
I saw Sonny and Brownie 7 years later. Sat in the front row of a small
venue. I was riveted. Changed my life! But instead of deciding to try to
play them at the time I became a blues aficionado and a bit of a blues
I was taken back to 1971 later on when I lived in Ann Arbor for 20 years
and had the extreme pleasure of seeing Madcat & Kane perform on many
occasions. Again, I was riveted. But I was so busy raising my kids,
working the University of Michigan and starting a company that my
enjoyment of the blues was limited to listening while I worked. I still
kick myself, though, for not hooking up with Peter when I had the
chance. We even had the same dentist and chatted blues in the waiting
room on several occasions. As Maxwell Smart used to say, "Missed it by
It wasn't until I moved back to Colorado 17 years ago that I picked up a
harmonica. I decided that instead of hooking my TV up to cable I'd put
my money and time to much more productive use. I really only wanted to
play songs around the campfire or while taking a break from fishing,
etc. and I loved the idea of a pocket-sized instrument that I could take
anywhere. So I bought a Special 20. It wasn't until I tried to play
along with some of my favorite songs that it dawned on me that I'd need
more than one harp. Then I broke a reed. I couldn't afford to just toss
the harp so I bought Blackie Shackner's book, a Lee Oskar tool kit and a
few homemade tools and replaced the reed.
I tried every learning resource I could find (this was pre-Youtube) and
Harp-L was my oasis. But it was Jerry Portnoy's Masterclass CDs when
they first came out that set me free and gave me a fingernail hold start
to my lifelong learning pursuit of the little tin sandwich instrument I
Now I have dozens of harmonicas of various sizes and descriptions,
hundreds of dollars in repair/customization tools, literature and videos
(Richard Sleigh's are tops!).
And along the way I've made dozens of great "HarpBuddy" friends as I
call them from around the world and several inspirational teachers, many
of whom are on Harp-L. My harmonic playing and repairing was a doorway
into the rich social life that I enjoy now that I most likely wouldn't
otherwise have had.
What a wonderful little instrument!
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