Share your favorite harmonica songs!

Hey Harmonica Fam - let’s share some awesome harmonica solos with each other! It can be one of your all-time favorites , or just what’s been in heavy rotation lately. Single songs, whole albums, cool licks, or killer tone.

I’ll get the ball rolling.

I’ve always been a big Muddy Waters fan. The two Muddy albums that I’ve listened to most are Sail On and Hard Again, but perhaps my favorite harmonica solo of all time is off of the Muddy Mississippi Waters Live album, from the classic song “Baby Please Don’t Go.” Check it out!

I love the syncopation in this solo! He’s playing a 4-note pattern in triplets, and the first time I heard it, it turned my world upside down. This is one of the first harmonica solos that I learned note for note, and I’ve probably quoted it a hundred times in my own solos since then.

Funny, I always thought that it was James Cotton, but I did some research today and discovered it’s actually Jerry Portnoy! I never knew that Jerry Portnoy is one of my biggest influences, lol. Now that I know this solo was played by Jerry, I’ve got to start checking out more of his stuff! FYI - Jerry Portnoy is also the player on Eric Clapton’s blues album, From the Cradle.

Okay, now it’s your turn! Share your all-time favs or just the latest riff, solo, melody, or tone that got you excited. Make sure you include the YouTube link so that we can all check it out. All you have to do is copy and paste the link into your post and the forum will automatically embed it like you see above.


I have a song request for the theme song to the TV show “In The Heat Of The Night”. I found this harmonica version on You tube.
Would you consider giving a lesson with tabs?


Hey “emptyspace”. I like that username. What a smoking harmonica theme. Any idea who played it. It almost sounds like Terry McMillan with that insane vibrato. Thanks for sharing. Made my day. JP


Well… now that I mentioned Terry McMillan… As far as harmonica goes the first minute and 15 seconds of this solo is about as good as it gets for me… (especially when it comes to creating the types of overtones and undertones that are more characteristic of an electric lead guitar)… Love this sh*t… Does this do anything for you?


wow!..reminds me of the Beatles “while my guitar gently weeps”. Are you saying that’s not a guitar at the beginning?

Someone suggested it might be Toots Thielemans but they couldn’t confirm it.

I truly doubt that Toots Thielemans would play that sort of harp style – not that he couldn’t, just that he is pretty much on a different track. He also almost exclusively played chromatic harp.

Terry McMillan is really amazing!

– Slim


I’m sure Terry McMillan would have been very happy to hear you say it sounds like the guitar in “while my guitar gently weeps”. I’ve never heard about the Toots rumor but it sounds more like Terry to me than Toots. I’m glad you enjoyed that solo :slight_smile:


And yes. I’m definitely saying that the first 1 min and 15 seconds is a harmonica (not a guitar). That’s why I’ve thought that particular moment in harmonica history stands up with some of the best of 'em…


I’m knew to forums, so I think I might have replied to the wrong post. I googled “who played the harmonica in the theme song to In The Heat of the Night”? Toots Thielemans’ name came up, but it wasn’t a sure thing. JP, I hope I’m talking about the same thing as you and Slim.

We seem to be talking about two different things here: the theme music to “In The Heat Of The Night” (the video clip that you posted) and “Cold Day In Hell” (the video that J.P.Allen posted)! My comment and the comments from JP are referring to “Cold Day In Hell” :smile:

– Slim

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Thanks, Slim. When I read your reply and JP’s I was sure that something was “off”. Thanks for clearing that up for me.
Not quite sure how to navigate through a forum yet, but it’ll come, I hope.

Holy S#@% JP! That is some SICK tone and playing. I’d never even heard of Terry McMillan before. But I’m sure gonna go listen to that whole Renegade Gentleman album now. Any other recommendations of stuff he’s played on?


Hey EmptySpace - Happy to have you here, and thanks for sharing that awesome harmonica song! You seem to be navigating the forum perfectly, btw. I would be very surprised if that were Toots playing the harmonica on the In the Heat of the Night performance. My bet is that that piece was performed on an Eb diatonic harmonica being played in cross-harp in the key of Bb (and I’ve never heard Toots play anything but chromatic, as Slim mentioned.)

After hearing JP Allen’s post of Terry McMillan, I wouldn’t be surprised if were him! At any rate, it’s some great diatonic playing! Thanks again for sharing.

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Renegade Gentleman is my favorite but you might wanna track down some of his chugging harmonica. He’s pretty tremendous on the “train-time” chugging rhythm style harmonica.

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Hey JP. That song I believe was performed by the great Tommy Morgan

The uncredited musician playing the harmonica for this theme is none other than Toots Thielemans! It is listed under his credits on the IMDB website.

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Hey @DJRickMendez - welcome to the forum! Glad to have you hear. I think that “In the Heat of the Night” he played on was a movie from 1967. The theme here is from a TV show I believe from the late 80’s early 90’s.

I’ve never heard Toots plays diatonic at all. I would love to hear him do so if he ever has. To my knowledge he did not.

I did learn a couple of cool things about him on AllMusic though. Did you know he worked as a guitarist touring with the famous jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman?!

Also, he IS harmonica player on the wonderful Sesame Street theme song!

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Thanks for confirming that, DJRickMendez. I’m hoping that someone in this forum can give a lesson to that theme song. I’ve tried by ear, but really come up short.

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I think Toots played for the movie version not the TV show (I am pretty sure it was Tommy Morgan) He played a lot of TV show theme songs

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