Holly Holy Harmonica

Sing a song
Sing a song of songs
Sing it out, Sing it strong
Yeah! Yeah!

Neil Diamond
Music Trade Review November 1914
Colouring added by author.

Nice Christmas pressie. Anyone have one in their collection? The Great War may be a reason for their scarcity.



A Canadian inventor is on record with a device for preventing soreness of the lips of harmonica players, which is now customary by abrasive contact with portions of the instrument. To overcome this fault this device referred to is constructed with a pair of rollers, one at each end of the mouthpiece, the rollers being journaled in the uprights and operating on the sides of the mouth organ. The rollers are made of rubber or other resilient material, acting as cushions for the mouthpiece. The rollers being secured to the mouthpiece and independent of the mouth organ, the entire device can be attached to any of the mouth organs at present in use. (Music Trade Review 1905)

What! What! What! This tickled my fancy when on an unrelated search. Lip soreness is the bane of many harmonica player both past and present. After a little digging I found the culprit of this invention – it was Canadian Henry Horatio Neilson.

Praise be to Pat Missin who sent me two of Henry’s patents that provided a visual of the aforementioned contraption. I had a real struggle ascertaining a mental picture of his device. Henry, a watchmaker and inventor from Perth Canada, had also patented a sash holder and fastener in 1884 – another important apparatus of the day.

He was onto something with his lip protection device, but I’m not too sure it was a big hit in the suburbs. For more on other similar devices and an Australian invention in 1904, click on Neddie Seagoon aka Harry Secombe visage.

Oh, and by the way, on my travels a similar invention popped up from another Canadian inventor, Rufus Henry Deacon of Bolingbroke, Ontario. This patented sliding attachment of 1906 apparently also aids in the playing of a mouth organ and prevents cutting or bruising of the lips or tongue. The cover plate has a channel for the interaction of the attachment. The Canadians were right into lip protection.

Mitch Grainger – Honey Bee

Honey Bee is the third prereleased single off Mitch Grainger’s album ‘Plug It In’ set to be dropped in March of next year. And it’s a buzz 🐝. Like the previous singles Honey Bee has two formats; one with band and the other acoustic. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, my allegiances align with the acoustic versions. Mitch states that Honey Bee was written and the basic tracks recorded while performing regularly at the Harvard & Stone burlesque nights in Los Angeles. He added that, “The sexier the tunes were the better then, and we always had a lot of fun when this track was played”. Do yourself a service and purchase Honey Bee and spin it on your devices.

From Louisiana we have Grant Dermody’s new solo project that is an absolute must listen for any harmonica aficionado. First heard of Grant Dermody as the harpist on some of Eric Bibb’s tunes. This album is smooth as single grain whiskey and his vocals aren’t too shabby either. And what’s more, you can obtain your copy through the best streaming and download platform Bandcamp. There are no fillers and plenty of originals but, if I had to pick a favourite, it’s the opener, a tasty cover of Muddy Waters all time 1955 classic Trouble No More, which featured the legendary harp of Little Walter. Grant’s humdinger of a version has a bit of a Jean Genie feel.

Riff Raffer Mark Weber, Chromatic expert and collector, acquired a few non chromatics recently. Three crazy little Jazz Masters (possibly – definitely two) landed in his lap – two with a box and one without. The Club Queen Jazz Master (the one without), has what looks like an attachment for extra loudness the Fortissimo. This same attachment has also been witnessed on a Gretsch Song Master model. I called on Guru Pat (Missin) for an explanation of the elaborate set up of the most impressive The Club Queen. “It’s basically a standard diatonic, but the lowest three holes with double reeds are tuned in octaves to beef up the chords. Pat had seen a similar model elsewhere and later recalled, “the one I had in mind was made by Schlott and is in their 1936 catalog under the name “Club: Königin”, which means “Club Queen”. Why is it so?

There maybe a question regarding the harps matching the boxes or vice versa. The orange box with Jazz Master emblazoned on top contained a harmonica stamped Begleitung (German for accompaniment) on both cover plates, but Jazz Master was nowhere to be seen. I find this to be a little weird. Begleitung is a generic name which has appeared on other chord harmonica brands. The Jazz Master line was produced for an english market (Australia) so a German titled harmonica would be a little out of place in the land ‘Down Under’. The style of writing of Begleitung does match Bass engraved on the reverse plate of the Bass Jazz Master. So perhaps they are related. To throw another spanner in the works, Pat Missin has a very similar miniature bass harmonica made by Bohm with the same stamp except on very different sliding cover plates. What! What! What!

The bass Jazz Master was presented in a box with the colourful graphic of three musicians, which usually contained a harmonica stamped with the same cursive Jazz script. Having said that I’ll say this, the Jazz and the Jazz Master are both manufactured by Schlossmeinel. So it is possible the box was made available for both. Who(se) nose? Anyhoo a great find Mark.

A Doug Dawson specimen.

For more information on the Jazz Master and to check out my version with mouse ears, head over to Masters of Jazz.

Benoit & the Ol’ Dawg Hisself

Benoit (pronounced Ben Wah not Ben Oit)

Benoit’s new album ‘Mountain’, which has a wee bit of harp from yours truly, shouldn’t be too far away and my single Locomotive Weave is coming round the mountain too! We’re just stokin’ the furnace. Look out for them in 2023.

Short Snort

Next year’s first of the month, is a Short Snort (Organ) – just a quickie for your visual and intellectual pleasure. Lookout! There will be a few more Pictorials in the coming year like this month’s feature The Big One . Until 2023 have a Merry Christmas – see you in the New Year with a little luck (we can help it out).

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