Harmonica - The People's Instrument

Did you know that the harmonica is THE PEOPLE’S INSTRUMENT? It’s been played in more places by more people than any other instrument. Think about it. It’s been played on…

  • The North PoleThe South Pole
  • On top of Mount Everest
  • All the way down the Amazon River
  • In Outer Space, on the Gemini VI Flight, 1965

Astronaut Wally Schirra played Jingle Bells for the first musical transmission from outer space, citing the reason for secretly smuggling the harmonica onboard, “because we couldn’t carry a tune in a bushel basket.”

And did you know in 1986, Hohner produced its 1 BILLIONTH harmonica. Yessss, I spelled that right, Billion with a “B.” If the harmonica had a theme song, maybe it’d be Johnny Cash’s “I Been Everywhere, Man!”

I learned some of these fun facts in the first few pages of a great book that somebody on the forum recommended to me. It’s called Harmonicas, Harps, and Heavy Breathers

Next time your at a dinner party, spread the word: The harmonica is the people’s instrument! :wink:

Rock on,
Luke

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Sounds intriguing, just ordered it from Amazon . . .

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I’m reading that book, too. I’m through the first three chapters. Really interesting so far.

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Who wee that’s cool news wonder how many times I played since 1973 what a mind blower

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Got book now, started reading last night. Very well written and quite enjoyable reading, especially with all the history involved which can get abit boring after awhile, not so with this writer tho . . . Glad I got it!

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24% done with book now, up to the time where I can relate to some of the names of the shows, Ed Sullivan, David Frost, Who’s Line is it Anyway, that were on when I was a kid. Wasn’t into music at all tho at that time so most of the artists names aren’t familiar. Boy . . . that Borrah Minevitch sure was the ultimate con man during his time controlling all the young, mostly underage harmonica players with an iron fist. Pretty sad but times were tough and alot different then. The interview with Alan “Blackie” Schlackner was quite interesting and him being the only harmonica player to even be in Ripley’s Believe it or not is quite impressive. Playing 1,096 notes in 90 seconds ! WOW . . . Time out to rest my eves abit, if everybody isn’t reading this book, your sure missing out on some interesting harmonica history!

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So . . . Bored this afternoon since winter storm moving thru the “Frozen Wasteland” so good day to stay at home and attempt to stay warm. In the book, Harmonica, Harps and Heavy Breathers, one of the early harmonica players from early 1900’s, Palmer McAbee has a couple recordings, 1928 it appears and his train if definitely something worth listening to, Have no idea how some of these sounds are done . . . https://youtu.be/3UvOzsyty_E and one of his songs, Lost Boy Blues, is https://youtu.be/WpA4gRmAyRc quite different from what Blues are now. But then, this is almost 100 years ago also . . . Really enjoying my history lesson on early harmonica, that’s for sure !

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Hello @Butch,
Wow, what a locomotive :steam_locomotive:. I’m just imagining how fast you have to move yourself or the harp to play this and the breathing. Very impressive! Thank you for sharing!

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Train imitations are my favorite aspect of the harmonica at this point. I’d consider giving the proverbial left one below the waist to be able to play every note of that!

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Good stuff. That’s the tongue-blocking stuff that enables those cool lead and comping at the same time things he’s doing in the Lost Boy Blues. That’s the old-fashioned mastery that you just don’t hear too often these days (except for from a few like my friend Joe Filisko.)

Thanks for sharing these, @Butch!

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Kinda sounds like he’s playing two harmonicas at the same time. Most of them were young teenage boys when they were “recruited”?, for lack of a better term . . .

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I’m out of breath trying to keep up that’s awesomely cool thanks for sharing

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Yes, Butch that’s the power of tongue-blocking. It turns your mouth into 2 mouths! (Left side of tongue and right side of tongue.) The recruitment of teenage boys through harmonica contests was for the harmonica groups that were so popular in Vaudeville back in the day.

Palmer McAbee was a rural blues player which is about as far away stylistically from those harmonica groups as you can get.

Rock on,
Luke

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