Walking On Air

Very interesting (but not very practical) mouth organs.

Koch eight hole mouth organs in the shape of animals (1927 Catalogue)

All quiet on the home front with no new additions (vintage ‘Oz’ harmonicas) to the fish tank. So, in keeping with the theme of the cartoons that follow, I opted to include a few obscure mouth harps from other sources. Ands. Koch in 1927 had these animal design mouth organs. It appears the animal shapes were an extension of the cover plate and they certainly look a little cumbersome to hold and play. Haven’t seen one in the flesh (not sure one even exists), although a gold fish model offered at the same time by Koch, are in collector’s hands. I had thought of focusing on our very own boomerang shaped mouth organ, but that has been done to death.

F A Rauner’s 1927 Babes Musical Bat (From Doug Dawson’s collection) – measures just under 4 inches/10 cm

Another unique mouth organ offered (can I say from left field) in the same year by Australia’s Crackajack manufacturer F A Rauner, was a mini baseball bat branded Babe’s Musical Bat. Timely considering New York Yankees’ player Aaron Judge has recently equaled and surpassed Babe Ruth’s most home runs in a season. This mouth organ was offered by the Bahner Doscher Company for game three and four of the 1927 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Pittsburg Pirates. Doug Dawson, Canadian collector, who kindly sent HRR this photograph of his specimen, had been informed a small baseball was included in the pouch the harp was housed in, but none have been located (in the ball park) to this point of time. Might be time for a cricket bat harmonica to be manufactured for the ‘Land Down Under’ market.

Shep’s cricket bat mouth organ design.

Believe it or not!

Sydney Sun, March 1948

Ripley’s ‘Believe It Or Not’ cartoons were a regular feature in Australian newspapers. In March of 1948 two portraying the harmonica were printed.

Alan Schackner

The first was Alan Schackner a prominent American player, who had stints on the Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson shows. He even had the honour of Gene Kelly dancing to his compositions in ‘The Time Of Your Life’ on Broadway. Alan has been credited as the only harmonica player to be honoured in Ripley’s ‘Believe It Or Not’, but Jackie Gross from Boston appeared not long after for his talent in playing the harmonica from his nose and whistling at the same time (he may not have been recognised as a virtuoso on the instrument).

Sydney Sun, March 1948

Robert Ripley started commercial drawing at the young age of fourteen. His ‘Believe It Or Not’ cartoons began in 1918 when he was employed at the New York Globe. While sitting at his drawing board and pondering over a few sporting oddities he developed the concept from his initial sketches drawn under the header of ‘Champs and Chumps’. At the peak of his cartoon, he had sixty million readers with three hundred newspapers and periodicals worldwide publishing in all languages. In 1936 a staff of thirty clerks answered his mail of two thousand letters a day – Believe it or not.

Robert Ripley – (middle) with a sausage tree in Central Africa and (right) the man with a swivel head (Martin Laurello)

Gotta say this particular cartoon had me intrigued. I suffer from an old sporting injury that is the opposite of Martin’s issue. I have difficulty turning my head to the left because of osteophytes. My son, who is training to be a Chiropractor (he has plenty of practice here), also was gob smacked by Martin’s head rotation. Martin can only hold this position for a short time as his trachea (windpipe) is twisted and he cannot breathe.

Allan Caswell has a ripper new single Sometimes It’s Your Job. The song was penned by Allan with his regular co-writers Manfred Vijars and Lindsay Waddington. They developed the song on a true story Allan had heard many moons ago, that emphasised both the courage and craziness of rodeo life. On writing the bush ballad Allan proclaimed. “It is country music at its most traditional … and it’s most Australian. You need a great story and a sense of realism.” Just a quick disclaimer, the author does not condone the exploitation of my wonderful equine friends in the name of human entertainment.

I dropped a line to compliment him on the tune. SD: Nice one Cas – now that sure is country…love the tale, tune and of course the harp. AC: Thanks Shep – the harp on this one was played by Brendan Radford … he really nails the country harp. Hear here Sometimes It’s Your Job.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Lionel Easton

Riff Raffer Philip commented recently on the Barry Sandford article Mr. Versatility and was hoping I’d do an article on Lionel Easton. It doesn’t look like I could do that justice, but a small piece here might be adequate. Lionel Easton was born Lyonel Edward Pilkington in Sydney on April 20, 1921 to parents Lemoine and Doris. His mother was a gifted piano player, who had passed this skill onto her son. Lionel then converted to the emerging and popular Chromatic Harmonica where he soon became proficient on the three octave version.

His trio had regular appearances on ATN 7 television and in 1956 he played incidental music on his Chromatic Harp for Douglas Stewart’s play ‘Ned Kelly’. The music for the play was composed and arranged by John Antill and his association with John would later see him record a Harmonica Concerto penned by John. The composer underwent a couple of lessons on the instrument to aid in the development of the concerto. It has been reported that John had offered the score to International artists, but they had all rejected it on the basis it was too difficult with its two octave leaps and the intricate tonguing required. Lionel accepted, and together with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra a record was made. Lionel would have liked another crack at recording the concerto with full rehearsal to correct tone and balance, but this would not come to fruition. W L Hoffman a music critic for the Canberra Times wrote on 30 July 1969, “There is an unpleasant edge to the tone of Lionel Easton’s harmonica.” You can judge for yourself by listening here Harmonica Concerto.

John Antill

Seven years later, Lionel recorded again with a dedication to Bach’s music. It was titled ‘Pocket Bach’ and the album cover photograph was quite interesting for a couple of reasons. Why the double sided Hohner Echo harmonica is pictured is a little bewildering when he would have played a Chromatic. As for the primary picture itself, well I can’t explain it, except to use a Seinfeld phrase, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

Left: Double sided Echo from a 1939 Catalogue. Right: As it was in 1912 with same box cover.

Fret Wire Studio

Photographs – Pam Sheppard

Back to Dave’s studio to record my instrumental train piece titled Locomotive Weave. No Rocky (the three legged greyhound) to greet us on this occasion, but a Magpie did join us for lunch. Look out for it in all good and bad record stores. Sure to be a big hit in Biddleonia where high standards of mediocrity are honoured. Also had a chance to hear some post production on I’ve been stranded on my own by Benoit that has harp by yours truly. It has the tasty addition of percussion with brushes by John Schmidli. Benoit’s new album ‘Mountain’ is not too far away.

3MDR – Rocktober Radiothon

It’s time again to support your local or not so local favourite community radio station. Under the banner of You are 3MDR (I Am, You are, we are 3MDR). Get aboard and buy a membership. Lots of prizes to be won and on Sunday 23 October (2 to 6pm), at the amazing homestead that 3MDR broadcasts from, you’re all invited to a garden party with live music and so much more. Tune in on 97.1 fm or stream live off the internet at 3mdr.com

I joined Peej on his Imaginary Friends Show last Toosday to do a Radiothon Huff’n’Puff special. Much fun was had with great interaction from his wonderful listeners. I blew the harp on a Reverend Dan Smith riff for Name That Riff Before Shep Sings (NTRBSS) – sadly for all, I had to sing. I also resurrected Harmonica Riff Hits & Bits (HRH&B) with Poco’s Find Out In Time. You can hear all the shenanigans here 📻 (2 hours and five mins in). Oh, and by the way we go overtime by fifteen minutes into the next show. Sorry Slingsby.

HRR feature this Month – Old Jig Jog

If you missed this month’s main feature article on Richard Clapton titled Old Jig Jog click on the picture of Richard in his cricket whites above. Next month’s is a tale about a young lad from Tassie (Hedley Does A Runner), who found himself in Melbourne by accident, allegedly. He could play the mouth organ and imitate the bagpipes. I won’t give anymore away. Check it out – I hope you have a better understanding.

Demon Kade Chandler (Photograph Pam Sheppard)

Cover photo (Believe it or not – I’m walking on air) is of our favourite Melbourne/Casey demons footballer Kade Chandler, taken in the warm up prior to Casey’s Preliminary final. Casey went on to win the Grand Final and, in our opinion, Kade was B.O.G. Hope he receives a decent opportunity for Melbourne next season.

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2 thoughts on “Walking On Air

  1. Hello Shep
    I have 4 or 5 post cards that have a harmonica in between the covers. Any interest in seeing photos? You may already have seen one or probably have one.
    Regards Harley

    Liked by 1 person

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