Getting It Back

Hello fellow harmonica players.

I started playing when I was 16 and a friend of mine played me the first Paul Butterfield Blues Band record. Suddenly I started hearing harmonica solos in my head. A friend of mine had an old harmonica so I used that. Picked it up in no time.

This was in the late 60s, and I stocked up on Chess reissues. “Hate To See You Go” became my Bible; I made it a point to learn every solo and lick on that record, and Little Walter remains my favorite blues harp player. He simply had it all, he was a genius.

Before too long I was playing in blues bands, then I moved to the big city, learned to play the chromatic harmonica, learned music theory and sight reading, and eventually got into studio work, playing on TV and radio commercial jingles. Obviously this was before MIDI came along and put us all out of work.

I was a really good player, scary good. I owned the harmonica. I’d even studied the chromatic harmonica at a conservatory in New York city. The inventor of the Hohner CBH 2016 chromatic harmonica, Cham Ber Huang, was the head of the harmonica department, and my teacher was Robert Bonfiglio. Here he is playing Debussy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyz0j3tbqUw#
World’s Greatest Harmonica Player-BONFIGLIO-Boston Pops-John Williams-Debussy Reverie

(He didn’t know anything about playing blues on a diatonic harp.)

About three years ago, I became very ill. I was sick, with a number of ailments that kicked my ass; chronic fatigue, itching and rashes, pains all over my body, really bad headaches; and a lifetime of smoking didn’t help. First it was pneumonia, then bronchitis, then finally it was COPD. I still have it, but it’s hardly noticeable. I’m lucky.

But all that time I was sick I couldn’t play. I could barely lift a harmonica, much less put it in my mouth and play it. Finally the doctors figured out what to do for me and I started getting better. It’s only in the last year that I’ve been getting my health back, and now I’m playing again. My embouchure is shot to hell, that was to be expected, and I’m having to relearn a lot of the technical stuff that I once just took for granted.

I actually sat in with a band in Houston when I was there awhile back, and that was scary, but I did it. I didn’t play all that well. My precision, my tight technique and my snazzy jazzy licks that were once my stock-in-trade are just a memory now. But it’s coming, it’s coming. Every day I can feel a little of it coming back. I can feel it in my lips, my jaw, my face and my hands; all of those are starting to work together again, but I have a very long way to go.

Playing the harmonica is something that happened to me when I was but a child, and then all of a sudden I was a harp player. I intend to be one again.

I’m glad to be here. I’ll make it a point to be a good contributor, anyway I’ll do my best, promise, and I look forward to getting to know my fellow free-reed musicianers.

(The Cardinals are having their asses handed to them in game one, aren’t they?)

I’m sorry for the trouble you’ve been having, but glad your Dr’s found something to help. Thank you for being willing to share your experiences with us. I’ll be looking forward to your posts.