Canadian collector Doug Dawson sent photos of a couple of exquisite Cracker Jacks recently added to his ever expanding collection. F A Rauner sent his models down under (with a little tweak to the name) to Allan & Co. of Melbourne. Sláinte Doug.
Built to beat the band. Probably not ideal – better to be part of the team. Especially considering this advertisement for Melbourne’s Crackajack Mouth Organs appeared in the Australian Football 1908 Jubilee Carnival program (pictured below).
The Crackajack Double Concert was the newbie in the line added just the year before. For more on the history of the Crackajacks and a photo of the Double head over to A Crackajack Story.
Good friend of HRR Mark Hand from Okriftel Germany, also sent this photograph of Hohner’s 20th Century Advance that is held at the Trossingen museum. Difficult to find any detail about this mouth organ. In 1900 Hohner trademarked 20th Century Advance Australia and 20th Century Queensland For Ever a wee bit earlier. In 1925 Musgrove’s of Western Australia advertised a 20th Century Harp – a five shilling forty Reed model. The Federation Souvenir model sold by Hohner had the same Shield graphic as this box label. I wondered if the stamp on the label provided any clues to its dating. I fired off an email to John Whiteman another big world collector, who helped explain its significance, “Hi Shep, That label is one of the characteristics of a specimen that I watch for and document, so I do have heuristic experience. I call them “property tags” because often they represent specimens that were documented in a collection or even a museum. Sometimes they are just an OCD dealer’s way of categorizing them. The prevalent syntax of the property tag is “model/number-of-reeds”. So, 2096 1/2 / 20 almost certainly indicates a 10-hole diatonic model 2096 1/2. Hohner regularly used the “1/2” suffix to extend the usefulness of a root model (here = 2096).”
The Advance Australia, Coat of Arms and what looks like the Rising Sun with the Emu and Kangaroo stamped on the cover plate had me investigating the origins of these icons. In the nineteenth century Australia consisted of separate colonies, however there was a push for a national identity. A unofficial Advance Australia Coat of Arms was designed consisting of the elements previously mentioned. In the quadrants of the shield were a sheep, a sailing ship, a sheath of wheat and either an anchor and/or mining equipment. The graphic of the sheep in the Hohner label is poorly drawn – initially I thought it was fox! The Rising Sun symbol and Advance Australia term were used by unification groups as early as the 1820’.
This mouth organ box recently appeared on an auction site and it bowled me a googly. I’ve seen pictures of the F A Rauner The Scorcher and I have a copy of their trademark for 1899. How this fits into the scheme of things, I have no idea.
First single up for review is a beauty. Sue Ray is some talent and her recent release is one with the lot – TVH (Tune, Vocal and Harmonica). She has a new found fan here in the Ol’ Shep Dawg Hisself.
I had the opportunity to find out more from Sue on the writing of the Take Me Away and her harmonica journey.
SD: Congrats on your latest single Sue. I really rate it and the harp is spot on for the tune.
SR: “Thanks so much Shep. I’m glad you like the track.”
SD: Could ya tell the Riff Raffers about the writing of Take Me Away and the addition of blues harp?
SR: “It was really fun letting loose and playing some dirty old blues. I actually wrote this song late last year when I was asked to come up with an idea for a song for Queensland Tourism for a campaign of theirs. But I ended up loving the song so much I wanted to release it myself. After months in lock down, I think it was the easiest song I’ve ever written, it’s obvious that it’s about dreaming of getting out of the house and feeling free again. A dream/fantasy of getting back to normal life. I went for a stomp/clap style so it would be an anthem style song. Something easy to sing along to and catchy. I kept the instrumentation minimal and just hit it hard with some fun harp to blues it up.”
SD: How did your harmonica journey evolve, Sue?
SR: “I’ve been playing harp for about fifteen years, self-taught so no formal training of any kind. Started out playing more country style harp, but after a stint in Memphis and seeing some of the best blues players in the world, I simply got addicted to playing the blues. When I play, the harp is more than just an instrument, for me it’s an extension of my voice. I often mouth words while I’m playing it, and also phrase the playing almost like it’s talking and telling it’s own story. I probably sound nuts, but when I’m really in the moment playing a harp solo, I feel like I’m making it sing it’s own lyrics in it’s own language.”
Two other Aussie singles up for review this month all feature the blues burger. Matt Joe Gow is back with an appropriate tune, Go Ahead, Celebrate. The tune was written off the back of touring his successful 2019 album ‘Break, Rattle and Roll’. We previously reviewed the fabulous Ride On from that release. Matt said he believes the song sentiment is pertinent today stating, “Now, more than ever, I feel we need to celebrate the little things, the moments together, the wins.” Radio friendly song with a bit of Dylanish harp and a humble celebration. The other single is from Suburbiasuburbia and it features some filthy harp on a ripper blues rock tune. The songs title says it all Swifty Goes To The Shop. From the burbs of the east coast of Oz the boys make a statement about life in a capitalist society. Alan ‘Kroc’ Lyon is the bloke on vocals and harp and there’s some pretty hot guitar in the mix as well from Robbie Riot. Out now on most streaming platforms.
What a Grand Final Saturday it was, with the mighty Dees (Melbourne Football Club) premiers (Australian Rules Football). A great team, team, team. But, also for the very first time (if my memory serves me well) harmonica played in the prematch entertainment.
Vikki Thorn (The Waifs) blowin’ a few notes to Icehouse’s Great Southern Land. I’m not into omens, however if there is such a thing, the Dees were never going to lose.
Having recently reviewed Seydel’s Major Cross (one of many Seydel alternate tunings) Hohner have entered this realm with the PentaHarp.
I have to preface from the outset that I have always had a limited capacity in the pursuit of musical theory and understanding. I like taking the harp out of the box and just playing – just saying. I don’t think it would suit my chug-a-luggin’ Sonny Terry style. If I wanted a harp to be a different instrument and play the box pattern on it I’d have just kept playing the guitar or taken up the Chromatic Harmonica. Having said that I’m me and you’re you. This harp will have its uses as do all the alternate tunings and I can see a guitarist playing rack harmonica possibly benefitting. This is not a new tuning as both Mike Easton and Pat Missin had delved into this setup over twenty years ago and Pat tells HRR he hasn’t used it much since. I suggest you head over to Hohner’s page and Pats to find out all the ins & outs.
In 1955 Hohner had a true five note harp called Penta. I believe it’s a single plate harmonica- blow notes only. Their new PentaHarp actually has six notes making it a hexatonic scale.
Our mighty fine local radio is running their annual radiothon searching the continent for new subscribers. With climate change playing havoc up here in the hills the station is purchasing two new generators to power the mast and the studio when the mains goes down. For more head here 🪕.
Not sure where we would be if local musicians couldn’t get airtime.
Mainstream radio loves playing the same toons from decades before and some just what the Major publishing houses push on them. I cannot give enough platitudes to 3MDR for my recent music journey. Check out the grid here 📻 something will take your fancy – I guarantee it.