Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 229 #272)

Juicy Harmonica!!!

The ongoing George Smith study had to lead to Juicy Harmonica! This is a rollicking, swinging tune that is clearly in the list of "harmonica anthems" like Juke and Walter's Boogie, so get this in your repertoire!

George recorded this in 1969 on a record called Of the Blues put out by ABC Bluesway records, but you can get it here.

Now why the heck is this song in F#? Was it sped up or slowed down for some reason, which would have changed the pitch? There are horns on the song, but that wouldn't necessarily point to F# as a preferred key. There's no way to know for sure, but Joe did share this interesting harmonica history: it wasn't until the sixties that Hohner even offered harmonicas in keys beyond the seven most common. To satisfy the "folkies" and the Butterfield fans, Hohner released the Blues Harp in about 1965 and sold it in twelve key groups to music stores. The stores surely had a lot of the oddball keys like B sitting around and no doubt offered them at discounts to move them. Maybe that's why George had one - harp players are known to be, um, frugal!

In any case, there's certainly no reason you need to play this song in F#. Fire up Amazing Slowdowner and move the pitch a half step so you can play it, as Joe suggests, in F or G.

Looking at the head (page one) there are a few great lessons:
  • This is a great example of AAA chorus form phrasing. Unfamiliar with this terminology? Get a copy of David Barrett's fantastic book, Improvising Blues Harmonica, and study up.
  • Why does that A phrase work over all the chord changes? Well, music theorists might tell you it doesn't, but obviously it does work and that is because it is so strong melodically and George sells it. This type of repetition is easier to pull off over a fast tempo song like this too.
  • Joe suggests that this rather short song could be lengthened by playing this head a second time and maybe even coming back to it at the end of the song - very jazzy move.
  • Joe admitted page two is somewhat mysterious. A chorus this strong and this deliberate must have origins in some other song, but where? Shoji immediately had a suggestion: Okie Dokie Stomp by Clarence Gatemouth Brown (and may we say, let's bring back horn sections and dancing girls!). Corporate Kirk also suggested some similarity in the song Rebel Rouser by Duane Eddy - watch for your favorite two-harp band doing this sometime soon!
Clearly both of these tunes would have been in the air and in George's subconscious. If you have other songs in your catalog that hint at this chorus, let us know!

The United States Gains a Brilliant Musician!!!

On Tuesday last week, our very own beloved Shoji Naito became an American citizen! The US gains an amazing harmonica player, guitar player, bass player, drummer and educator. Congrats, Shoji!

Harmonica World - News!!!

Joe, and others in class, highly recommend this publication, so get yourself a subscription: Harmonica World - News.

Class Notes
  • No classes next Monday, July 4.
  • Thanks to all who have made recital and Rick Estrin CD sales so great! This makes it possible for us to keep hosting guests and putting on wonderful shows.
  • Joe is underwriting Gary Smith's airline tickets for the Bash. If there is anyone who would like to support the show by sponsoring a hotel (or has a lead for a hotel discount), please let YouMissedMonday know.
  • Windy City Harmonica Club chord playing ace Bud Bobolink will be a special guest in B1 for the 2:30pm chording class on July 11.
Robert McClung Video!!!

Alert reader Highway RickEy sent us this video of a pretty incredible Fox Chase. Let's see you do it!

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew