Best harmonica players...old and new

I would like to hear who @Luke considers to be some of the best harmonica players to listen to, but am also open to all opinions!

I’m looking for maybe top 10 harp players to listen to. Yes, there are the classic greats:
Paul Butterfield
Little Walter
Charlie Musselwhite
John Popper
Big Mama Thornton
Toots Thielemans
James Cotton
Sonny Boy Williamson II
Muddy Waters
John Lee Hooker
Alan Wilson
I’m sure I’m missing a bunch of greats of all time - let me know!

But, what I’m really looking for is TODAY’S GREAT harmonica players. Who are the best current, living, harmonica players that everyone should know and listen to? @Luke - who are the current masters that you look up to? Anyone and everyone is welcome to chime in, also!
I’ll start with a few I know of - please let me know your thoughts:
Lee Oskar - one of @Luke’s favs, yes?
Jason Ritchie
Will Wilde
Juzzie Smith - one man band
Indiara Sfair
Adam Gussow
Howard Levy
Carlos de Junco
Joe Falisko - @Luke - I believe you once said he’s “the foremost living authority on the harmonica”. Is that true?
Yuri Lane, Phil Henry and Moses Concas - beatbox harmonica

Who else am I missing? Either on the “oldies” list, or the “living” list? Anyone who definitely needs to be on my watchlist? Anyone on my lists that doesn’t belong?


Mmm very tricky. Looks like you’re already very well equipped to seek out good harp players. Each one has their own tricks or complex rifts they’ve mastered. It’s like comparing apples to cheese in my opinion. You see moments of greatness in random pieces played by some then you watch them play something else and you hate it. I might add Christelle Berthon. Living. David Bowie dead. Bowie because he gives it a go is pretty crap technically but pulls it off.


One player that should be right up on top is the fellow that played the dances With Wolves harp music, he died a few years ago but what a resume he has and player he was, I think his name is Tommy Tompson (sp ? ).


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Hello @Mystr_E,
first of all, welcome to our forum.

Fortunately, music preferences are different, including when it comes to playing the harp. In addition, there are global differences even across continents. In addition, one should not forget the age structures.

I like, among other things: Mr. Bloe :uk: with Mr. Bloe very good. For me one of the main reasons to learn to play the harp.

Regards from Germany from Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:


Hey @Mystr_E - welcome to the forum my friend! I LOVE this thread topic. WONDERFUL. Thank you! :facepunch:t3:

Here are a few newer albums I discovered in 2023 and LOVED:

  • Yes you are correct I love Lee Oskar and his recent album “She Said Mahalo” is no exception. A couple of my favorite tracks on the album are “Most Favored Nation” and especially “Funky Rhetoric”

  • Carlos Del Junco Band “Just Your Fool” released in 2017, I first heard it last year, and it’s my favorite of Carlos’ discography. The guitar player is a total shredder and shines just as much as Carlos does on harp.

  • Roots Duo (Joe Filisko & Eric Noden) Destination Unknown released in 2018. Yes I consider Joe Filisko to be a foremost expert on the instrument, and I don’t think you’d find many pro’s who’d squabble with me on that. He’s so humble and understated not flashy at all - but he’s a total expert, and especially on the old pre-war stuff. He’s all about tone and breathing, as he signs off on his emails: “aka the Chord Whisperer.”

  • Roly Platt “Inside Out” album is FANTASTIC. The Canadian released this debut album in 2014. I just discovered it last year. My favorite version of Over the Rainbow, and lots of cool funk. You’ve gotta buy the CD from his website though.
    Inside Out | Roly Platt

  • Todd Parrott “Songs from the Harp” another album I just discovered last year. From North Carolina, there are aspects of the production that I’m not in love with (a bit clean for my taste), but his blazing gospel riffs and soulful use of overblown are second to none in my opinion. Meeting Todd changed my life. This is another one you have to buy the CD: MUSIC

  • Grant Dermody is a New Orleans player I met a SPAH and found his tone absolutely gorgeous. I like his 2022 release “Digging in John’s Backyard” which you can check out on streaming services.

  • Jerry Fierro originally from Long Island resides in Florida and his group Mudbone has a live record “Live at the Dogtooth” that I listened to on repeat in my car in 2023 for about 3 months. I LOVE THIS ALBUM!!! The musicianship of ALL the musicians is so high. Very funky, which is my wheelhouse. Another one where you gotta buy the CD though:

So those were my happy discoveries last year, and I hope you check some of them out and love them! Rock on! :sunglasses:

Oh the other player I listened to a ton last year who is I think one of the best alive is Buddy Greene. I’m making a Spotify Playlist of my favorite harmonica songs of his, and I’ll come back to this thread and post it when it’s done. :call_me_hand:t3:


I grew up on a lot of 90s country and I’d say it was the best decade for the harmonica in that genre of music because you had so many different players trying to evolve the sound of the instrument, even though harmonicas were being terribly manufactured during that time. However some of those players who tried to make it big had no spice to their playing. I felt like with some 90s country harmonica, they were just playing straight with no emotional attachment to the licks, which turned me off frim the instrument for a long time.
That was until I heard Terry McMillan play on the song “Ain’t Goin’ Down ('Til The Sun Comes Up)”. With Terry, he played with the most raw sounding and emotion-filled licks that came from the bottom of his soul. He was one of the pioneers of modern country harmonica as he incorporated a bigger, raspier tone and a bluesy playing style, giving him an original sound that nobody else had at the time. Even though his roots are more in the blues he mainly played country and gospel music, and he knew how to mix those genres together. He would play these licks on a Hohner Golden Melody and to those who believed that the Marine Band is the superior harmonica for blues, Terry pushed them out of the water when he played.

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Being primarily a blues guitarist I am actually stunned by Will Wildes ability to make his harp sound like a guitar. I’ve heard people refer to him as the ‘Jimi Hendrix of harmonica’ and I honestly think that is a fair comparison. LIsten to his version of Parisienne Walkways by the late great blues guitarist Gary Moore. If it doesnt send shivers down your spine it’s too late to save you.



Here are a few to add to the list of greats who have passed on:
Big Walter Horton
Chester Burnett
Gary Primich
Junior Wells

As to “all time greats”, I think that’s measured over a very long time and probably not in their lifetime. “Great” is often subjective. So here are some very good, living players (not all from the USA) not on the list so far.
Andy Just
Charlie McCoy
Flávio Guimarães
Kim Wilson
Jean-Jacques Milteau
Jerry Portnoy
Mátyás Pribojszki
Michal Adler
Mickey Raphael
Quique Gomez
Rick Estrin
Steve “West” Weston
Victor Puertas
Wallace Coleman

Every one is unique and worth a listen.

In the DVD, “Rick Estrin Reveals! Secrets, Subtleties & Tricks of the Blues Harmonica”, Rick notes (Because of all the good harmonica teachers today) “There are probably more fairly accomplished harmonica players today than ever before. There’s also several excellent players, and even a few true greats among today’s players. But one thing I know for sure. The best ones? They been dead a long time.”