Choke the Tone

Mouth Organ Ephemera

Left: Albert’s Boomerang Mouth Organ Tricks & Effects Booklet (1928) Right: One of the tricks inside.

Picked up this booklet for a song the other day. Playing the Blues was a bit of a novelty trick back in 1928. Why is it so? Henry Whitter was playing cross harp blues back in 1923. Here’s an edited explanation from the booklet on the technique involved in blowing the blues; 1/ Use a single reed Boomerang Mouth Organ. 2/ Best after playing for some time, because the woodwork will be moist and the reeds will be dull or sluggish – best for blues. 3/ Blow into mouth organ in usual way and move the back of the mouth organ downward and at the same time ‘choke’ the tone by producing a suction with the tongue and lip. 4/ Do the same as three except move the back of the mouth organ upward. 5/ Practise by doing both movements at the same time. Oh yeah!

How to get rich playing the harmonica.

The Evening News, Rockhampton 2nd October 1931

This is GAS (Gary, Andy & Steve) with a new release, I’ve Got A Secret. Songwriter Gary Young, who could write a song at a drop of a hat, shares more tunes about love, loss, regret, heartache and little sleep. Gotta say the instrumentation on the album is bloody brilliant and Steve lets it rip with some interesting harp phrases. Packin’ My Bags features Steve blending three short harp riffs on the same harp key to get a pretty flash sound. I asked Steve Williams how he came up with this harp idea. “I always look for some little figure that I can turn into a hook. The chords go from G to Em and I thought I would do a simple sax section over that bit but it sounded too leaden so I tried the harp idea, which then lead to making a horn section on the ‘pretty’ bridge chords.” Steve uses this effect in the intro too. It was extremely difficult to select a favourite as they’re all mighty fine, but I did take a fancy to The Bayou Tiche – with It’s 5am and Packin’ My Bags running a close equal second. I excluded the cracker The Shack Inn as Steve gifted this track earlier to HRR and I have already extolled its virtues.

Justin Peters (singer/producer) has honoured legend Charlie McCoy on his country toon Harmonica Heaven (It’s good for the soul). Sweet harp from the great man rolls with the song. Make sure you play it all the way through as the melodic solo is at the end and is flavoured with a dash of Zydeco. Kim Churchill’s new single has some nice harmonies with Steph Strings and a harmonica solo is splashed into the mix. Titled Please Come Home it’s out now on all good and bad streaming platforms.

Back (& Front) Recording

Up to the peak of the mountain to lay some harp lines on a few Benoit tunes at Dave’s Fretwire studio. Had a wonderful welcome from Rock the three legged greyhound when my Manager (Pam) and I exited the car. The owner (not Dave) wondered if perhaps we were Rock’s previous owners because of his unusual exuberant greeting.

Dave threw a curly one at me (he likes doing that), but all in all, the groove was pretty smooth. Most excellent! The photo above has me looking like I’ve put on weight, however I was rugged up (although it wasn’t as cold as earlier in the week when the top temperature maxed out at 6°C) and also my manager’s camera was a little unkind, I think. Just saying! Oh, and Dave’s talked me into recording my train thang – a 45 rpm vinyl is in the making.

Community Airwaves

Western Red’s If That Ain’t Country was tuned on the car radio when heading off the mountain last month and a song, heavy with country harmonica, pricked my ears. The country harp sounded a wee bit like good friend of HRR Steve Williams.

I didn’t think Tabasco Tom Rogerson and Steve had performed this ditty and, as I hadn’t heard Red announce the tune, (Shazam had no clue either) an email was fired off to the broadcaster.

Here’s Western Red’s reply (without an American accent). Gday Shep! Good to hear from ya mate, thanks for the email! The track you’re referring to was by a bunch of local nobodys (my favourite kind!) who made a record in some part of America haha. My guess was maybe the late 70s/early 80s, I picked it up at some flea market years ago and really liked that song but the rest was kinda forgettable haha. I wound up getting rid of the album but keeping that track for the show, glad you liked it too! The name of the act suited their local status Ron, Jeff, Frank, Ray & Mike. The album was Makin’ Tracks Together and the tune was Ramblin’ Man. It was Mike (Schrimpf) playing the harmonica. I’m really glad you liked it – I thought it was great too! Best track on the LP by a long way. Thanks a bunch for listening mate! – WR

Not Another One!

Yep. Four of them now and so my one is even more commonplace – thanks very much Mark Weber. Mark has obtained a Hohner 1898 Up-To-Date Chromatically Tuned (w/o box). Mark informed HRR that he’s just about done with his historic chromatic harmonica collection except for the super difficult to locate F A Rauner with vertical slider. Could you keep an eye out for Mark, Riff Raffers?

If you missed this month’s feature article Hammerin’ On The Blow here’s the quick link. Bit of a peek at Daddy Cool’s harmonica on their 1971 Lollipop EP which also exhibits Gary Young’s paradiddles and vocals. Oh how it all ties in.

Vale

Ian McCausland

Ian McCausland (1944 – 2022) sadly passed away last week. Ian’s artwork features on the Lollipop EP (and the caricature of Mr Eagle Rock pictured previously). Scattered throughout my vinyl collection are many of his fabulous graphic productions – Daddy Cool, Spectrum, Chain, Matt Taylor & Carson.

Johnny Famechon

Fammo left with trainer Ambrose Palmer.

Johnny Famechon AM (28 March 1945 – 4 August 2022)

Check out Harpin’ Ringside for my paragraph on Fammo. He was champion of the world.

Thoughts and prayers to families and loved ones of both gentlemen.

Cheers

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