17th September, 2018
Hi Riff Raffers,
At last, an interview of sorts with one of my all time harmonica favourites, ‘Dingo’, Broderick Smith.
As a twelve year old, Brod along with Matt Taylor (Chain), Mike Rudd (Spectrum), Ross Wilson (Daddy Cool) and Chris Blanchflower (Country Radio) piqued this young Australian boy’s interest in the instrument that fits in your pocket. Along with Chris, Brod was adept at playing these sweet, melodic, country lines.
Over the course of my radio show Brod was the only interview I couldn’t get to first base with, not even with contacts through Brod’s acquaintances or direct emails.
Having recently retired the radio show, Brod makes a comeback with a book, ’Man Out Of Time’, and a CD of the same title with original material. Hoping that this may be the catalyst for a written interview for the ‘Shep Dawg Blawg’, I emailed Brod. I suggested general harmonica ramblings, which included his introduction to the instrument, blues/country nuances and his influences, rather than trying to tie him down to a specific interview. We’ll blow me down, Brod responded swiftly and positively, however with the provision of giving him a few days.
A week later, in an attempt to keep the offer in the forefront of Brod’s commitment and as a real interest in to why The Dingoes classic, ‘Boy On The Run’ had been reworked on the ‘Five Times The Sun’ album, I offered this to the list of ramblings. His answer was somewhat surprising, “Oh, I have no idea. It’s too long ago. Dingo years are slowly fading from my memory.” Having just written his autobiography this was a wee bit mystifying. It does appear that the Dingoes story isn’t a major feature in his recent memoirs. I wonder why?
Another week goes by and I try again. His reply was a little deflating, but understandable. “I’m sorry, I haven’t started this. I’m snowed under with other stuff, but will attempt this again in maybe the next few months”. Brod did leave the door ajar with his postscript. “Maybe give me some questions that I will answer?” I promptly acknowledged his suggestion with what had been my main focus in my initial contact. “How about just this? Your transition from blowing blues licks to country licks (Brod had played in a blues boogie band, Carson before the country rock of The Dingoes). How this came about, your influences and the nuances of both styles?”
Within ten minutes Brod had delivered. Yay! I give you his exact words here. Thanks Brod.
I started out playing melody stuff I guess, not Blues. Originally I wanted to play the organ but financial restraints stopped that. I also liked guitar so I was influenced a lot by those instruments rather than the sax. So, I went from folk and country in a way to Blues.
Influences would range from Charlie McCoy and other unnamed guys. I liked Sonny Terry and Hammie Nixon in the Blues initially. The UK players were not up there with the Yanks but they were a big help in what tunes they covered which allowed you to find the source if you were so inclined.
Both styles involve some bending but country is a faster playing style than Blues. Folks that play fast in Blues generally miss out on the emotion required and just happily skim along on the surface. The great players weren’t that dedicated to being fast. they were dedicated to playing what the song needed. There is a reason why BB King played sparsely, because it had more impact.
In Blues you can bend notes into pitch to some degree if the harp is a bit out whereas in Country folk it will sound out of tune. In Jazz you’re normally talking chromatic but folks like Blues Birdhead and Howard Levy the modern master of over-blow/draw technique both played/play diatonic. Toots Thielemans was the guy for jazz. Quincey Jones used him as much as possible.
I offer my vocal/harmonica recording of ‘Boy On The Run’. By the way, it is the authors personal view that the re-recording on the album, ‘Five Times The Sun’ falls well short of the original, as does my version. You can hear Brod’s first release off the album, ‘Singer In Chains’ here https://youtu.be/4PdAQZX6ZNw. ‘Man Out Of Time’, book and album, will be released through Bloodlines on the 5th October 2018.