Time to get down to the business of the harp playing on Junior Parker's Sweet Home Chicago!
The transcription is here, and here are a few notes about it:
- The vamp marked with an extra large "V" indicates a very special vamp - first heard from Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller). Parker may have heard recordings but more likely caught Sonny Boy doing this on the radio during his King Biscuit stint. It is produced by beginning with a "full tongue block", meaning tongue on and no sound. This allows for the buildup of back pressure or suction and then the tongue comes on and off quickly producing a distinct, sharp vamp. This and licks and phrasing Parker uses all point to Sonny Boy being his biggest influence, though you'll note a slightly smoother vamp from Parker and a little richer tone - likely the result of his not having come up playing in noisy juke joints and struggling to be heard like Sonny Boy did.
- The Memphis players are guys you hear doing less subtle chording like on page 6. Check out Wolf, Horton, Dr. Ross and Junior Parker for this forceful chord sound.
- Wait! Page 6? My recording doesn't have a page 6. Yes, well, get a copy of Harp Blues and you'll hear this extra bit of playing not heard on other releases.
- The enunciated lick on bars 11 and 12 of the solo are definitely done with a pucker embouchure.
Our recent study song My Babe and Martin Luther King remembrances all came together yesterday on WBEZ thanks to Chicago's own oral historian, Studs Terkel. In 1963 Studs and 800 other Chicagoans boarded a train out of town bound for Washington DC to participate in the March on Washington.
Don't miss this amazing series of interviews, complete with impromptu singing of This Train, the basis of My Babe. (Here's Sister Rosetta Tharp singing This Train for you.)
- Be in B1 next Monday, January 26, for Jason Ricci and Nick Moss! All are welcome.