Harmonica Harry (Pitch) – 1925 to 2015

Harry Pitch took inspiration from Larry Adler and like him he was an entertainer who worked hard to build a successful career. They were both more interested in the music rather than technique, but Harry was always a jazz player.

This audio biography shows how Harry’s long musical career covered all areas of music on chromatic harmonica and trumpet, as a soloist, session man and bandleader. He could read music but was always happy to improvise and play with other musicians.

Harry started to play harmonica before the Second World War. When harmonicas became unavailable after the Second World War he moved to trumpet. He joined and led big bands in the 1940s/50s but he started to play harmonica again after hearing Max Geldray playing in the Goon Show. I have included examples of him playing both instruments in his big band. He carried over much of his trumpet solo style to his harmonica playing.

In the 1960s he became a successful session musician, featuring on film soundtracks, classical music concerts, pop records and his biggest hit, Groovin’ with Mr Bloe’.

From the 1970s, Harry played on the long running TV series, ‘The Last of the Summer Wine’ and he started to play more with his old friend, accordionist, Jack Emblow.

Harry set up two bands, ‘Rhythm and Reeds’ and ‘The Thames Valley Jazzmen’ and he continued to play trumpet and harmonica. As live gigs became harder to get he played more smaller venues like Pizza Express restaurants with some distinguished pianists and a repertoire of light classics, standards and tributes to Larry Adler.

There are some videos and more information on his web page.

Harry Pitch Audio Bio

1 – – – 00:00
2 – Max Geldray – Goon Show – 02:00
3 – – – 02:45
4 – Big Band Trumpet – Boy Friend – 03:10
5 – Big Band Harmonica – Lady be Good – 04.03
6 – – – 05:40
7 – Frank Ifield – I Remember You – 06:45
8 – Bill McGuffie – During One Night – 07:22
9 – – – 08:10
10 – Mr Bloe – Groovin with Mr Bloe – 09:10
11 – – – 10:00
12 – Ronnie Hazelhurst – Last of the Summer Wine – 10:30
13 – – – 11:30
14 – Rhythm and Reeds with Jack Emblow – Alfie – 11:45
15 – Thames Valley Jazzment – Birth of the Blues – 15:10
16 – Thames Valley Jazzmen – L’il Darlin’ – 18:40
17 – Harry Pitch Duo – Body and Soul – 23:30
18 – Harry Pitch – Summertime – 27:10

Harmonica History in Books

Harmonica History in Books.

Today’s harmonica world is the result of the pioneering activities of manufacturers, composers, performers and amateur players.
A lot has happened in the last 100 years but it is not very well documented or understood.
These books provide some of the backgound to the artists and the way the music developed.

         AuthorBook Title
#1Louis DelinBackstage Harmonica – Autobiography
#2Larry AdlerIt Ain’t Neccessarily So – Autobiography
#3Larry AdlerMe and my Big Mouth – more autobiography
#4Al SmithConfessions of Harmonica Addicts – A History of American Ensembles
#5Jane RodackBe of Good Cheer – Memories of Harmonica Legend, Pete Pedersen
#6Kim FieldHarmonicas, Harps and Heavy Breathers – Interviews and stories
#7Albert RaisnerLe Livre de l’Harmonica – History of The Harmonica to 1960
#8Ray GrieveA Band in a Waistcoat Pocket – The Story of Harmonica in Australia
#9Ray GrieveBoomerangs and Crackerjacks – The Harmonica in Australia, 1825-1960
#10Jerry AdlerLiving from Hand to Mouth – Larry Adler’s Younger Brother
#11Max GeldrayGone With The Wind – Autobiography of a Dutchman in England
#12Peter KrampertThe Encyclopedia of the Harmonica – Short Bios ofHarmonica Players
#13Kurt Roessler   Sie Spiel(t)en Mundharmonika – Harmonica Players
#14Fabrizio PoggiIl soffio dell’anima: armoniche e armonicisti blues
#15Martin HaeffnerHarmonica Makers of Germany and Austria
#16Martin HaeffnerHarmonicas – The Story of Hohner Brands
#17Christoph Wagner Die Mundharmonika – ein musikalischer globetrotter
#18Martin HaeffnerMade in Germany – Played in the USA
#19 Martin Haeffner“Hohner The Living Legend” – 150th Anniversary
#20Zong XiaohuaChinese Made Harmonica Illustrations
#21EditorsSeventy Years of Hong Kong Harmonica (2004),
#22CMA, NUS Harmonicist’s Handbook, 1991, Singapore
#23Gian PasquinelliSoffiando e Risoffiando – by Armonauti Trio (Italian)
#24Bruno KowalczykThe Harmonica and Traditional Québécois Music
#25Charlie McCoy50 Cents and a Box Top
#26Jean LabreMusique en bouche


You can read more information about these books and where you might be able to find them on Pat Missin’s fantastic web site about all aspects of harmonicas.

National Poetry Day 2015 – Blues Medicine – Hylda Sims

Hylda was one of the Skiffle/Blues pioneers in London in the 1950s. She was part of the City Ramblers and is still playing this style of music in clubs in 2015. This poem or free song, Blues Medicine, is Hylda’s homage to the Blues.

It is about the need for some blues medicine which can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Maybe it is the first Skiffle Rap!

Here is the live performance of Blues Medicine from the radio show with Hylda speaking, Doc Stenson on harmonica and Simon Prager on guitar.

It was recorded live on Jonathan Ballie Strong’s Live Lockdown#3 show on London’s K2K radio in November 2013, in a program I did about the life of the UK pioneer harp player, Cyril Davies.

Hylda, Doc and Simon Prager
Hylda, Doc and Simon Prager

National Poetry Day 2015 – Borrah Minevitch and the Rascals

Dedicated to Borrah Minevitch – Johnny Puleo and all Harmonica Rascals

Borrah Minevitch Rascals
Borrah Minevitch Rascals

Although regarded by some folk
as crude and simple toys
the pleasure of harmonica
were shared by scores of boys

A youth called Borrah Minevitch
selling papers on the street
would play mouth-organ melodies
his customers to treat

In a theatre show on Broadway
to appear he got the chance
a stepping stone to stardom
and stagecraft to enhance

But the showmanship of Minevitch
Borrah’s unique brand
lay dormant in his solo act
untill he formed a band

At first a youthful orchestra
who’s numbers were too great
but the ‘master’ pruned the players down
and “his Rascals” did create

The talent of its players
shot the group to fame
through ‘stage’ and ‘screen’ and ‘radio’
soon a household name

Leo, Abe and Fuzzy
Ernie, Hal and Mike
just six of the originals
we’ll never see their like

The ‘maestro’ was the figurehead
who always took ‘spotlight’
with little Johnny Puleo
his constant scourge and blight

Vaudeville and music-hall
short ‘movies’ for the ‘flicks’
they played a London symphony
in nineteen thirty six

The century’s almost over
our offsprings want for nought
but will they every feel the joy
that “Borrah’s Rascals” brought

© Brian L. Holland August 1997

New Orleans, London, Memphis, Manchester… British Blues before the 1960s

This was the title of a talk given by Lawrence Davies on Saturday 26 September 2015 at the National Jazz Archive in Loughton, Essex, UK.

Blues researcher Lawrence Davies talked about the story of early British blues as seen through the collections of the National Jazz Archive and his own research. Blues, ‘hot’ jazz and boogie-woogie became a vital part of the 1930s and 40s musical landscape in the UK through the release of US ‘Race Records’ on popular UK and European record labels. After the war, broadcast on the BBC, VOA and AFN, and the emergence of ‘traditional’ jazz and skiffle set the stage for the first visits of African American blues musicians – Leadbelly (Paris), Josh White, Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, James Cotton, Muddy Waters, Sister Rossetta Tharpe and blues piano players like Specked Red and Otis Spann, usually with Chris Barber’s band.

The Cyril Davies website provides a lot of background on what happened.

Lawrence Davies is a research student in jazz and popular music at King’s College, London.