[Harp-L] Artist Thomas Benton - His Harmonica History?

John Jordan hooktool@xxxxx
Wed Sep 26 22:54:03 EDT 2018

Where is the show you are playing? I can't help, but glad you posted this,
he's one of my favorite artists and I had no idea he played harmonica. So

On Thu, Sep 20, 2018 at 2:01 AM philharpn--- via Harp-L <harp-l at xxxxx>

> I stopped at Tom Benton's house/museum about 10 years ago (???) while in
> St. Louis for a SPAH convention.  I inspected Benton's chromatic harmonica
> collection (12 holes) and his harmonica notation. He used a tablature
> system of numbers and arrows-- now a very common tablature for diatonic and
> chromatic.  I don't know if he was the first to use the system-- but it
> probably was not very common when he used. ALSO, there would not be very
> many harmonica books when Benton started out. He started on the diatonic
> harp and later switched to the chromatic. Somebody from the Benton museum
> showed up at SPAH to give a talk and only about three people attended the
> talk. Which means the chromatic crowd didn't have a clue who Tom Benton was
> and/or didn't care to learn. I think I learned about Benton from Phil
> Duncan, the Mel Bay harmonica author.
> The web account says he bought a more expensive harmonica to play
> half-notes; wrong term. The chromatic allows half-steps -- which means
> flats and sharps (the black keys of the piano). There are no "missing
> notes" like on the diatonic. The C chromatic can play in any key -- like
> the piano.
> If you contact the Benton house/museum you could probably get a list of
> the tunes he played and tabbed out and/or the songs on the 78 rpm records
> he recorded. I'm sure I must have written something for American Harmonica
> Newsletter at the time -- but that was on a PC computer. I'm now using a
> Mac and there is no electronic index.
> The 1941 three-record 78 rpm album would have 6 songs if it one song on
> each side of each record. Benton must of used a swing rhythm to play the
> tunes because the rest of the musicians on session couldn't follow him
> until he took his shoe off and they could follow the beat of his shoeless
> foot.
> Here is the links for the Benton home and studio state historic site
> <
> https://mostateparks.com/park/thomas-hart-benton-home-and-studio-state-historic-site
> >
> There is Teachers Guide
> A video of actor portraying Benton <
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVM8hJuuOqo>
> Hope this helps
> Phil
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Harpin' J.Scott <harpinj.scott at xxxxx>
> To: Blunt White <playharp at xxxxx>
> Cc: harp-l <harp-l at xxxxx>
> Sent: Wed, Sep 19, 2018 10:48 am
> Subject: Re: [Harp-L] Artist Thomas Benton - His Harmonica History?
> He seemed to favor early American folk tunes. Particularly "Old Joe Clark",
> "My Horses Ain't Hungry", and " Buffalo Gals".
> Great website for more info here:
> https://countrymusichalloffame.org/inductees/thomas-hart-benton1
> Best of luck!
> On Wed, Sep 19, 2018, 10:40 AM Blunt White <playharp at xxxxx> wrote:
> > Greetings - I've been asked to play harmonica at an Art Show opening of
> > Thomas Benton's works (Benton is famous for murals/paintings depicting
> > American life in late 1800's and early 1900's).   Benton was also a
> > harmonica player and released an album in 1941 called Saturday Night at
> Tom
> > Benton's (it's on iTunes).   I'll be performing with some other artists,
> > guitar, fiddle etc.   An art historian will be speaking about his art.
> >  Does anyone have a story about his harmonica?  Was there a particular
> song
> > he liked, if so I would to play it.  I want to do right with this
> > opportunity.  Thank you
> > Best,
> > Blunt White
> > Stonington CT, USA
> >

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