Bob Dylan question

I’ve seen a picture of Bob Dylan where he was supposedly soaking his marine band harmonica before playing. Isn’t this the last thing you would want to do as they are known for swelling? Can someone give me a reason why he does/did this?

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In the 60’s it was what everybody did. Dip it/briefly soak it, tap it against your palm to knock out most of the liquid and you were ready for the next song.

Stuck reeds - soak it. Gunk in the harp - soak it. Bad taste - soak it. Sure, you did it for too long or too often, the wood comb swelled, the harp didn’t play well, your lip got pinched. Then you learned to dip it in whiskey. It didn’t play better, but it was cooler.


Back when I was a beginner and played wooden-combed harps the comb would sometimes swell while playing and protrude a bit, making it tough on my lips. Pat Hayes of the Lamont Cranston Band always had his harps soaking in a glass & showed me his trick: when the comb swelled he’d shave off the protruding wood. When dry the wood shrunk back into the reed plates, but when he soaked them they’d swell back to where he wanted them. I haven’t seen Pat in probably 20 years, don’t know it he still soaks his harps, but it worked back then.


Hi DS, I just saw an intro lesson on “Breakthrough Blues” where JP shows how to sterilize your harmonica. It is submerged in liquid for about 15 minutes. I think he recommended just doing this a couple times a year to avoid rusting or other damage. But I didn’t realize you could play it right away after soaking. I thought you needed it to dry out first.

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Like BnT said, we soaked them so they would swell, they would’ve anyway because black label beer was about $15 a 1/2 keg.