Monday, September 20, 2010

Ken Schoppmeyer, San Diego Blues Harmonica Genius, 1942-2010


There are those who know me principally as a harmonica player, and some folks have asked how I  learned to make actual music from an instrument that resembles nothing so much as a toy. Practice, I would answer, practice, practice, practice, and listen, listen , listen, a condition just as important. I listened to harmonica genius Ken Schoppmeyer  through the Seventies and in the Eighties, when  he played locally, and the fact of the matter that it was outright envy of his style, expertise, his easing finesse that compelled me to keep playing, playing, playing. It was a shock to hear the other day that Ken Schoppmeyer was found dead at the start of  Septemeber in an Oceanside hotel room,  an apparent suicide .Like so many others, I used to go see Ken Schoppmeyer and his King Biscuit Blues band play at the Mandolin Wind in Hillcrest during the '70s, and to this day I have never heard a better blues harmonica than he. He had the unique combination of grit and elegance, able to perform a sweet, melodic slow blues and wail on an uptempo shuffle; his tone was warm and well rounded, his choice of notes were inspired, his solos were sublime. He was an inspiration to my own harmonica playing; though I never came close to sounding like him, Kenny Schoppmeyer certainly inspired me to keep playing all these forty or so years later. God speed , Mr. Schoppmeyer.