Saturday, May 12, 2012

I saw the original Paul Butterfield Blues Band in Detroit, 1966 or 67 at a no age limit folk and blues club called the Chessmate in Detroit Michigan, and this was an event that changed my life forever. I bought my first harmonica soon afterward and have been playing ever since. Detroit is a fantastic town for Black music, with lots of soul, blues, jazz and rock and roll, and the exposure to these kinds of music at an early age influenced my harmonica playing. I listened to saxophone players like Coltrane and Sonny Stitt and Coleman Hawkins, I listened to guitarists like Johnny Winter, Clapton, John McLaughlin and Larry Coryell, I listened to harmonica players like Butterfield, Musselwhite, James Cotton, Sonny Boy Williams, Norton Buffalo, but mostly I just played all the time, all the time, with bands, played to records, played alone, all the time. I played until my lips bled, literally. My parents thought I was eccentrc . I didn't care. I play everyday.

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I played even at my worst drinking; i have been sober now nearly t wenty five years. I am now trying to figure out the way I play so i can do some instruction videos. I play entirely by ear and really have no idea how to convey my style to others. I would love to read or hear someone describe what is I do. I thank all of you for listening to me and your kind words. he only harmonica players I studied closely and made a concentrated attempt to sound like, ie copy, are Paul Butterfield and Charlie Musselwhite. Butterfield and Musselwhite were the first guys to introduce me to blues harmonica playing and elements of their respective styles remain in my own style 46 years later. What really helped me, though, was just listening to virtually anything I could get my hands on; in my case it was an ongoing obsession with guitar players. In fact, I picked up harmonica because I couldn;t learn how to play fast like Alvin Lee or Johnny Winter fast enough--I was just all thumbs and no patience. But it was with the harmonica that I found a voice, my voice, and it was with the harmonica that I found myself being able to duplicate riffs and effects from harmonica players and from a good number of guitarists and, especially, many, many jazz musicians, like Coltrane, Bird, Coleman Hawkins. This is not to say that I sound anything like the jazz musicians I just mentioned--their techniques and their vocabulary are certainly more sophisticated than what I currently have--but the point is that giving these guys hard, concentrated listens influenced my sense of phrasing, gave me ideas and notions as to how to skip around during an improvisation and not merely rattle off scales, how to be precise in executing my ideas, in how and where to bend, to slur, to insert chord textures, trills, triplets, octaves. I do tell others who are learning their craft to listen to as much music as they possibly can and to learn as many different styles as possible, to learn riffs from blues, country, swing, classical and to mix them all up, and to practice, practice, practice and after that, practice some more. And more after that. I place maximum emphasis on  practice and playing in live situations because for me this is the most effective means of sloughing the most copy-cat aspects of your influences and moves you toward your own style.Having never had a lesson, having never learned music theory, having never learned to read nor write music,  how I learned was by an obsessive preoccupation with listening closely to harmonica players, rock guitarists and jazz improvisors by the score and woodshedding for hours for decades on end. It's always been a one day at a time thing.  Everyday in every way I get just a little bit better. On good days I even myself when I say it.

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