Dr. Bellows

6th December, 2019

A quick question Riff Raffers. What do we have two of, we can do without one, the right is larger than the left, they have lobes and they act like bellows? If you said lungs your right on the money.

This remarkable sponge-like organ situated in the thoracic (chest) cavity functions closely with the myocardium (heart) to deliver oxygen to the body. The heart is a muscle which can be strengthened with aerobic conditioning and a chronic adaptation is its ability to function more efficiently at rest. The heart beats less often with more blood being squeezed out with each stronger contraction. The lung is not muscular and chronic training effects on oxygen uptake and lung ventilation are minimal. The skeletal muscles associated with breathing, the intercostals (situated between the ribs) and the diaphragm (dome shaped skeletal muscle between the thoracic and abdominal cavity) will both benefit from exercise. Perhaps the greatest improvement can be made by fully utilising the diaphragm. Breathing, an autonomic response regulated by the brain, can also be controlled with intention. It’s possible to isolate and engage the diaphragm with a technique called diaphragmatic breathing.

The importance of healthy lungs and the airway passages cannot be understated. Here in Australia we have a high proportion of asthmatics (especially in children) by world standards. One in nine Australians about 2.7 million suffer from asthma (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018). There are more than thirty recognised types of lung disease involving airway, lung tissue and lung circulation categories. In Australia COPD Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is in the top five causes of death.

My respiratory health was compromised about ten years ago with repetitive bouts of walking pneumonia and a case of severe bronchitis. My lung function deteriorated quite significantly where I now have to use two puffers daily. I have never been a smoker, but my parents smoked during my formative years and the sporting club rooms I frequented were filled with tobacco smoke (as were the live music venues I ventured into before I was eighteen) these may have been a causal factor in it’s decline. Passive smoking (breathing in other people’s smoke) is considered more deleterious than active smoking because it is inhaled without a filter.

I have believed for some time my return to harmonica playing and performing has been beneficial to my respiratory health in particular my chug-a-lug style. What better doctor for the bellows than the most owned instrument in the world, it fits in your pocket and is the only instrument that requires you to both inspire (draw) and expire (blow). Recently I visited Seydel’s website and blow me down with a harmonica they have two harps specifically designed to improve lung health.

Dr. Dana Keller designed the Pulmonica, a spiralling low ‘G’ tuned harp of low resonating frequencies to recruit dormant lung tissue and loosen congestion in the airways. Dr. John Schaman, who had been employed in Cardiac Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine for twenty-nine years created the Schaman Medical Harmonica for chordal playing to work directly on lung volumes and the muscular structures associated with breathing. John had noted his own decrease in lung function and discovered that fifty percent of lung function declines between the ages of thirty and seventy. This was considered a normal ageing effect! As Professor Sumner Miller used to enquire, “Why is it so?”

This isn’t meant to be a review of the musical playing capabilities of both instruments as they are designed for improving impaired lung function for people of limited musical talent. They are expertly constructed of the finest hygienic materials by the oldest harmonica making company in the world, Seydel. The Pulmonica is styled on Seydel’s Session Steel and the Schaman on their 1847 model. Both have a unique layout of notes providing the opportunity to play more chords than on a typical diatonic harmonica. If you are so inclined high quality music can be created and all with the added benefit of improving your lung health. Having said all that, let me say this, if you are a professional player you probably have low tuned harps and can play chordal rhythmical patterns (you may even have a bass or chordal harp) in which case you could already be receiving similar benefits.

More empirical evidence is required, however with the results already reported and when combined with numerous positive anecdotal reviews would suggest that the Pulmonica and the Schaman harp can improve lung health and that they probably compliment each other in doing so. I can with authority guarantee that you’ll have fun trying. I used to sign off the radio show with a wee saying of yours truly and I believe it’s quite appropriate to use now, May Your Life’s Breath Be Your Life’s Music.”

Cheers SD

PS: “Chug-a-lug chug-a-lug, make you want to holler hi-de-ho, chug-a-lug chug-a-lug!”

Here are the links for more detailed information on both harmonicas

No Pud!-NFSCD #12

1st December, 2019

Seasons greetings Riff Raffers. Now for the final something completely different with an added teaser for what’s planned in 2020.

Hopefully on the twenty fifth you’ll have some Christmas Puddin’ with Nanna’s extra slug of brandy and find a few sixpences to buy a mouth organ.


PS: Had a great night at Benoit‘s album launch of Blue Bird at the Selby Folk Club on Friday. Appreciated the opportunity to share the stage for the tune I blew some notes on. Happiness that the Blue Bird has finally arrived.🤠

South Aussie band Lazy Eye will be in Melbourne on Thursday night at a fabulous new venue for blues music, the Southside Classic in Elsternwick. They’ll be featuring tunes from their new release Whisky & Gin-complete with a horn section. Purchase tickets @

New Soundcloud post- Hear The Harp Man play here!

Musical Fractals

20th November, 2019

New music Riff Raffers.

Benoit has his debut album Blue Bird pressed and ready for release. This local singer songwriter from The Basin is establishing himself as a new force in the folk scene here in the Dandenongs and beyond. His lyrical imagery encapsulates the brokenness of humankind, but also the beauty of creation. The album is superbly produced and engineered by David Miller from his lofty studio in Mount Dandenong. Many of Benoit’s creative tunes are fleshed out with a little help from his friends.

It kicks off with the catchy, countrified I Thought I Would Always Have It All that has floating slide guitar by Max Lees and heartfelt harmonica from yours truly. Every tunes a corker, however if I’m to nominate some other standouts I would include Familiar Cliche, It’s Unclear Where All This Water Flows (sweet harmonies by Jessica Nabb) and the final tune the upbeat Silver Lining.

Benoit launches this beautifully presented CD (outstanding original artwork by Glynis Kirby) at the Selby Folk Club on the 29th November check out his FB for further details.

Another record for review features one of Australia’s greatest songwriters Kerryn Tolhurst-former Dingoes and Country Radio member, who wrote Aussie classics such as Way Out West, Smooth Sailing, Singing Your Song, Wintersong and Gypsy Queen. He appears on a fabulous release from Belmar Records-‘Belmar Top 10 Vol.6’. His instrumental Down Slide is one of the highlights on the album, it features Kerryn’s expert slide oozing a blues groove and has a wee bit of harp added by Rob Price. Have to say that another instrumental by Jnr. Wheel-Barrow titled Servo Town is a belter and the Pearly Shells do a wonderful bright and breezy arrangement of Hallelujah. Purchase here on Bandcamp.

Kerryn’s been busy as he has also released a single on all good and bad streaming platforms, Beyond Redemption-this should receive some hefty AirPlay on Community Radio. Kerryn, with band, will be playing gigs under the banner Dingo Radio featuring songs he wrote for The Dingoes and Country Radio. This is a must see for us Dingo and CR tragics. On December 5th Dingo Radio will be performed at the Spotted Mallard in Brunswick, January 5th at the Caravan Club in East Bentleigh, then on February 1st the Newport Bowls Club and then at the fabulous Memo Music Hall in St. Kilda on March 15.

Nice to hear from (all the way from Memphis Tennessee) good friend of HRR, Shea Snow-front man of Driftwood Ramblers an alternative punk blues band. Four patient years have passed since their debut recording, Surviving The Flood Pt.1. Surviving The Flood Part 2 has just hit the airwaves and is also available on Bandcamp. Every tune is a chicken dinner and features Shea’s amplified harp chops. The opener is ready made for radio broadcast and even in its short two and half plus minutes there’s a bass solo, lead solo and a harp solo. Check out Whiskey, Wine & Gin while your at it, there’s a tasty harp riff.


PS: A couple of updates to the post Aussie Timeline. A new find the Bosker and an addition to the Topnotcher range, the Amateur’s Harp. Have a bit of a peek at the HRR Soundcloud a new Riff Hits & Bits, Mandu’s We Ran Across The Sky from 1974 which has the inimitable Jim Conway blowing exquisite harp. Oh, and by the way I have picked up a bargain buy a Chromorgan (with box) for my humble collection of Oz harps.

Kangaroo Hop (The Swiss Connection)

7th November, 2019

G’Day Riff Raffers,

It’s an Australian hop, the Kangaroo hop, but it’s also the German hop.

Earlier this year I found The Kangaroo mouth organ in of all places Riga, Latvia. I had believed in the beginning that this was manufactured by Seydel for Albert’s here down under. In Ray Grieve’s magnificent resource book Boomerangs & Crackajacks there is a picture of a 1913 J Albert & Son advertisement with The Kangaroo in company with a Wallaroo and a Coo-ee (both of these were Seydel products). On closer examination of my specimen I noticed something was missing. Registered-Made In Germany wasn’t stamped on the front cover plate. The graphics and font, however appeared to be exactement.

Stamped on the reverse cover plate was a large letter R (perhaps some lettering after), Swiss Harmonica, a circular Made In Switzerland mark and the trademark pictured here. All I see is a lady in a dress. Pat Missin, harmonica savant, initially identified the maker as Thorens! Well blow me down with a harmonica!

Pat would also send me a page from a 1908 Catalogue which had The Kangaroo mouth organ stamped Registered-Made In Germany and clearly designated as manufactured by Ands Koch, the same mouth organ pictured in Ray’s book. What what what? This had us all scratching our heads. Where to next? I sent an email off to Isabella Kraph a fine harmonica player, who years ago stumbled across Bohm and Rauner stamps and dies in Seydel’s storerooms. Isabella replied to my email on how this possibly could be and if she knew of a Koch/Thorens connection.

Hi Shep,

……the cover stamp (the german term is deckel-prägestempel) was made by another factory … is very massive work …a heavy metal block and it was not made in the harmonica factory since this was a completely different thing…..also the boxes for harmonicas were usually made somewhere else – so it can also happen that you find quite similar boxes in different brands

so I guess that maybe the factory/ manufactory made two of these prägestempel and sold one to Switzerland and one to Klingenthal ….but also the : “made in germany ” would be on the stamp so it is not really the identical stamp

also back then there was not much choice for writings and kangaroo emblems ….like when you had a printed crocodile in a children’s book a long time ago you would also find the same crocodile picture in a lexicon or somewhere else

also I guess there were not so many factories who would made these stamps

so again …the only link I see here is the stamp …..but that came not from Seydel

greetings Isabella

Pat found some comfort in Isabella’s response stating, “Isabella’s comments make a lot of sense-I’m glad that something does in this story.”

I contacted Thorens in hope their historical records had been maintained. Michael Garner for the company told me that, “We do not have any information on old Thorens mouth organs at all. Sorry, no chance at all, all the documentation was lost during the decades.”

What’s that Skip?

Go get Pat Skip, we’ll have another look at the Trademark.

He’s not just a Kangaroo he’s a champion. Good on ya Skip.

Where does this leave us? Confused to say the least. We revisited the trademark once more and with meticulous forensic examination by Pat it was discovered to be a manipulated Koch trademark. Just a headshot of the goat that usually stands on a rock. Why is it so? Well history reveals Germany was on the nose around the period of 1914-18. Having Made In Germany stamped on your product was not great for business, however Made In Switzerland on the other hand did-you know it makes sense.

Trossingen’s proximity to the Swiss border and by somehow meeting regulations would provide Koch with a unique marketing opportunity. They removed their own brand name from the covers and replaced it with Rigi (Mountain Range In Switzerland) and cropped their trademark logo to have just the head of the Chamois (Goat-Antelope family). I can see a goat now! So there you go, the mystery demystified. It is speculated little or no manufacturing was done in Switzerland, but just enough to qualify for a Made In Switzerland stamp. Koch’s clever branding of Rigi on the harmonica reinforced the perception this is a Swiss harp-not German! It has to be doesn’t it?

(Picture courtesy of John Whiteman from his collection of harmonica box art)

I could also include in this journey the Kangaroo Charmer sold by Albert’s as early as 1896 and The Kangaroo they sold in 1923, but what would that prove?

(Picture courtesy of Ray Grieve’s book ‘ Boomerangs & Crackajacks’)

It’s well known Kangaroos like to hang around in Mobs and that’s what appears to be happening to the mouth organs that carry the same moniker. It’s just a Kangaroo hop, the Australian hop, the Germany hop.


PS: FYI Hohner also had a Swiss made line called Helvetia seen here with the box artwork from an Alliance harp.

In The Smith’s Weekly of December 1919 a report under a sub heading King Street Shop Displays Hun Goods stated the Alberts Music Store was advertising quite blatantly Made in Germany mouth organs. In one paragraph it mentions the Boomerang Miniature was described as, “Not Japanese and never will be, it is made in Switzerland.”

After WW2 the Chromorgan was made by Thorens for Seydel.

When I had thought I had finished my work here with the Swiss Connection I stumbled on this harmonica advertised in the Melbourne Weekly Times on the 23 September 1923 by Edments. Pat Missin confirms it is manufactured by Thorens. He also added Hans Rolz a Klingethal company made Brilliant harmonicas with a similar script and that they even had a Trademark that featured an anchor. There you go.

Thanks to Pat, John, Ray, Isabella and Michael for their contributions to this article.


Larry’s Lesson-NFSCD #11

1st November, 2019

Happy new month Riff Raffers. Our penultimate NFSCD, #11!

Larry Adler was a phenomenon worldwide and he took Australia by storm when he toured in the late 1930’s. He was even a good mate of our Don Bradman. Here’s some sound advice from the little master and a few caricatures to boot.


PS: Benoit has released another tune off his album Blue Bird for aural consumption. I had the honour of blowing a little harp on the melodic I Thought That I Would Always Have It All. Thanks Benoit. Details of his CD launch on his Facebook. A couple of new additions to Aussie Models Timeline 1925 & 1929. Check them out you need to scroll right down for pictures and information.

The Bells, The Bells.

18th October, 2019

Hey there Riff Raffers,

A look at an Aussie harp from yesteryear, a couple of record reviews and a few bibs and bobs. Don’t forget to visit Harmonica Riff Raff Soundcloud and YouTube for more treats.

In 1909 in Australia Albert’s was selling a unique Boomerang mouth organ with a double cup set of bells attached to the rear of the instrument via an arch with a boomerang shaped bend at the apex. It was a series called the B.A.B-Boomerang Arch Bell models. Pictured is the 40 reeds Professional edition which sold for five shillings and sixpence-there was a mini (20 reeds) of similar structure and a mini double as well. Two other models the 2-sided and the 4-sided (sold for seventeen shillings and sixpence) had one set and two sets of bells respectively, however they were mounted on top. The five versions can be viewed in Ray Grieve’s fabulous books on the mouth organ in Australia (a third is awaiting a publisher). The bells of different pitches would be tuned to the key of the harp and with the use of a lever on either side could be struck by both forefingers in an accompanying rhythm while blowing the tune.

The mouth organs were manufactured by Seydel in Saxony, however the bells would more than likely have been manufactured elsewhere. I don’t believe Seydel made a similar model for other world markets. It looks like the Arch Bell didn’t reappear after World War 1 and I don’t believe any have survived today. The very nature of it’s design found it wanting when withstanding the laws of physics. Even the top mounted bells of the day were fragile and extinction was never far away.

A similar bell structure emerged later on a harmonica made by A A Schmitt of Klingethal on their Lyra brand seen above. The University Chimes (German made-pictured below) sold by Sears Roebuck in America under the brand name of Beaver also had a similar double cup mounted bells, however this was attached on top.

The earliest mention I could find advertised Down Under was a ten hole mouth harmonica with bell, which sold for two shillings and sixpence in Hobart by J Walch and Sons in 1882. The model pictured below was advertised in The Farmer & Settler (Sydney) 18th July 1906 made by Gerbruder Schuster (Schuster Brothers) at Markneukirchen which sold for three shillings.

Ken Leiboff provides a fine demonstration of playing a harmonica with bells on the information highway. See here 🔔.

The bells have told!


PS: A wee bit of Album news. South Australian band Lazy Eye is set to release their sixth album Whiskey & Gin next month and they’re giving it away track by track. You can join the Whisky & Gin Rent Party by reserving a ticket here. It all starts on the 23rd October. A video clip of their fantastic title tune can be viewed here Whisky.

“Just when you thought Lazy Eye had reached their peak they take you over the top with their new album release Whisky & Gin. This is a toe tappin’ finger clickin’ treat. Not only have they put the hip into hypnotizing, but also the groove into groovy. No harp (mouth) but plenty of horn. Lazy Eye have added some herbs and spices to their Blues cookin’ with a three piece horn section and single malt harmonies. Do yourself a flavour and pick this up at all good and bad record stores.”  Shep (Harmonica Riff Raff)

“Every now and then a tune hits you right between the ‘ten speed gears’. Sunshine Coast band Flaskas have achieved this with their latest single Song Bird. Lovingly crafted with a marching rhythm, earthy vocals, singing slide and then when combined with the magic ingredient the ‘ten hole tin can’ Song Bird is elevated to higher realms. They did the Song Bird proud!” Shep (Harmonica Riff Raff) Hear here Song Bird . Out now at all good and bad streaming platforms.

While we’re on the topic of our feathered friends a quick update on Benoit’s fantastic album Blue Bird. His launch will be held at the Selby Folk Club on the 29th of November. The album cover is completed and I must say Lyn’s artwork is superb. Benoit has posted for want of a better word or cliche an interesting video clip of a tune from the album titled Familiar Cliche.

Just another quick one John Whiteman’s fabulous book on Harmonica Box Art is available for purchase here in Oz on eBay. Shame about the postage costs.

Oh, by the way Ken dug up a Cracker Jack relic and posted a pic and a comment on a previous Dawg Blawg #28285.

Buffalo Blues Burger

5th October, 2019

G’day Riffers,

On a chilly Sunday evening in the winter of 2014 my wife and I had the privilege of attending the Burrinja Cafe here in the Dandenongs (it wasn’t raining-only dripping off trees). A local duo transported us back in time to a smoking blues joint in New Mexico called the Golden Inn where Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee were doin’ their thang.

In 2013 Blackmarket Music suggested to Hoboken born Doc Span, who has resided in sunny Queensland since 1987 and local guitar virtuoso Nick Charles to collaborate on an album honouring Sonny and Brownie. The suggestion met with the affirmative as they were both long time devotees. Doc penned a tune for the album entitled the Golden Inn, which encapsulated a night when his band supported the dynamic duo at the iconic venue.

Nestled between the Ortez and San Pedro mountains resides ghosts of Native Indians, Spaniards and ‘Musos’ of past glories in the New Mexico town of Golden. If pointed in the direction north-west of Albuquerque on the long and winding road of State Highway number fourteen, twenty miles on you will find the town of Golden, then take the Sandia cut off.

(Photo courtesy of Andy Curry)

On a weekday visit you were welcomed to a vista of a nondescript log cabin, but on the weekends it transformed into a vibrant roadhouse with a delicious cuisine of Buffalo Burgers and jiving live music. Lucky Oceans formerly of the band Asleep At The Wheel now a resident of Western Australia recalled the Inn and the journey in, “Wow! The Golden Inn-always a wild gig, the bus snaking up the mountain, bikers and witches in attendance and the air awash with psychedelics.”

Early doors punters were yokel locals, who on lazy Sunday afternoons enjoyed the sounds of Emilio’s Rancheros. In the early seventies the Last Mile Ramblers a popular Western swing outfit rocked the patrons of the Inn. In lyrics from their tune on the Inn the punters of the time consisted of “hippies, bikers, Sante Fe characters, college kids from Alberquerque, the curious and the lost and amazed and bewildered locals.”

By the mid seventies the Inn regulars were all shook up when it was sold and renovations began. New York businessman Scott Washburn introduced a new era of music with the likes of Asleep At The Wheel, Toots & The Maytals, Leon Redbone, Muddy Waters and legendary folk blues duo Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. Huey Lewis played there for five bucks entry and even our own (or if you want New Zealand’s) Split Enz performed on the 20th May 1981 in support of their Corroboree album (Waiata in New Zealand).

Doc Span had based himself in Santa Fe during winter. He and his band would rush North to Alaska to perform, but also down the road supporting many of the Blues bands at the Inn. On one magic night in 1983 it was with Sonny and Brownie. I’ll let Doc retell the events. “They were constantly arguing with each other in the green room (back stage). They even had their own bottles of whiskey as they couldn’t even share that. After playing ‘Walk On’ Brownie walked off leaving a blind Sonny on stage all alone. When Brownie eventually returned he quipped, I was just tuning.” Their chemistry and music on stage would never be in doubt. That night they drove to their next gig in Texas (would have loved to have been a fly on the inside of the windscreen).

The following morning news had filtered through that the Inn had been razed to the ground. Concern had been alerted a month earlier when the owner Scott Washburn located a home made bomb on the roof. Its crude construction consisted of glass jars filled with gasoline and rigged to explosives with a blasting cap. The fuse burnt to an inch of igniting. After an extensive Federal investigation a man would be charged with arson. The Inn was never rebuilt.

Today, tumbleweeds blow through what once was a unique and proud music venue. If you listen carefully you can hear remnants of a Sonny riff amongst the cries of an Apache warrior, or was that Sonny whoopin’ and a hollerin’.


Thanks to Doc Span, a wonderful person and an extraordinary harp player. Check out an excerpt from my radio interview with Doc, a live abbreviated version of Sonny’s Riffin’ by Doc Span & Nick Charles and also The Golden Inn, which was recognised with the prestigious Chain award. Lucky Oceans, amazing pedal steel guitarist, for his contribution and interest. Check out Lucky’s new LP Purple Sky it’s a ripper. To Andy Curry whose band Used Parts warmed up for Sonny & Terry at the Opera house in Lawrence. In his words, “I’ll never get over how they rocked the place. Just the two of them!”

For your aural pleasure is the Last Mile Ramblers tune on the Inn.

Level Playing Field-NFSCD #10

1st October, 2019

Happy New Month Raffers!

Now For Something Completely Different from 1938 an ex-Diatonic Aussie Champion with a gripe, but with an idea. I wonder who it was. Was it Percy? I’m declaring my bias here-nothing beats a diatonic and a chordal vamp! (If you hadn’t already guessed). I must question if there is any need for musical contests? Surely competition detracts from the intrinsic nature of music. How do you compare apples with pears? Yeah I know they are both fruits. Okay, how about Brussel sprouts and pears. Leave contests to the sporting world! Although a similar problem occurs there especially in team sports.

Our local brand of Australian Rules Football (not to be confused with the corporate game branded AFL) rewards individuals with Best & Fairest medals for the season. A mid-fielder/on-baller has a distinctive advantage/bias over those playing key roles in the forward or backline and they dominate voting at both club and league level. Why do they need a subjective adjudicated individual award in a team sport anyway? There’s no criteria for assessment, just who you reckon. Also predominantly at club level the judges are parents of the participants, however I do digress.

Interestingly a letter to The Herald a Melbourne newspaper in January of 1930 from J Herbert Hughes from Burwood suggested that, “the only way to find Australia’s best mouth-organist is to have a competition where each player is numbered and walk on to a darkened stage so that the judge would not know who was playing.” Surely there wasn’t bias in mouth organ judging based on who the participant was? Maybe there was nepotism here as well.


PS: By the way did I mention that at league level they get the umpires to vote on the best players and they can’t even get the free kicks right. Okay I hear you-that’s enough. I’ve taken a chill pill.

Feature article Buffalo Blues Burger out on the 5th October!

Another update to Aussie timeline in the way of a picture of Sydney Dickens’ actual Echophone.


19th September, 2019

Hi there Riff Raffers,

Thought you may be interested in having a gander at the Mouth Organs sold by Albert & Son in Western Australia in 1925. No connection with J Albert & Son of Sydney. Do you have any of these? Maybe the short lived Baby Boomerangs? How short lived they were I’m not too sure as they were given away free with different items in 1934-a toy that fired a boomerang and a book titled 400 Ways To Get Rich were examples advertised in newspapers of the day. I have the more common Tiny. Never seen a Koala of the mouth harp kind-this would be a find. Interesting to see the Boomerang Grand sold with replacement reeds. I always wondered about the interchangeable parts branding. Hohner’s Blow With Ease has to be one of the worst monikers! Probably more appropriate for tissues. Mr Henry Bernard Albert proprietor of the Perth store was born in Wuerzburg, Bavaria in 1870 to a book selling family. As a young man he migrated to Victoria, Australia to seek his fortune mining gold. Not sure if he found any nuggets, but he found a bride (Eleanor de Fides) and they crossed the Nullarbor to settle in Western Australia. In 1908 he established a book selling and music store in Perth originally at the Central Arcade before moving to the premises in Murray street. Henry had one son (Norman) and three daughters (Mrs L E Pearce, Thelma & Melba).


PS: A couple of recent changes and additions have been made to the Aussie Models-Timeline.