Dave Beckford (1935 – 2014)

Dave Beckford’s story is a great example of the way many people took up the harmonica in the 1940s. Similar examples can be found in the lives Jim Hughes, Douglas Tate and the many other people who went on to play in local harmonica contests as soloists and members of harmonica groups.

Dave Beckford was born in Greenwich and spent most of his early life in Welling, London. He took up the diatonic harmonica at a young age and was soon playing popular dance tunes.

After learning how top players like Larry Adler were able to play so well, he saved up and bought his first Super Chromonica in 1950 for £2.16s.4d (£2.82) and played in the school’s Christmas party. When he left Bexley Heath Secondary school in 1951 he took part in a talent contest which led to some appearances for the Granada Theatre in Welling.

Dave became All Britain Chromatic Champion at the first post-war Championship held in in the Central Hall, Westminster, London in July 1953. He was 17 and this was his first major contest.

As Champion, he performed at a regional harmonica contest at the Elephant and Castle Cinema, in South East London, to promote the film Moulin Rouge. This is captured on the cover of the November issue of Harmonica News.

Dave then went out to Germany with Johnny Pluck to play in the World Championships in Duisberg. In 1954 he played with the Steve Race Orchestra on BBC TV, before doing his National Service.

Dave took time out after his time in the Army to raise a family and worked in the printing industry. It was not until the 1980s that he got involved with the harmonica again.

He joined the Blowhards Harmonica Club, a successful educational project run the by Mike Sadler in Gravesend in the late 80s. Dave was able and willing to help with members’ problems. He continued to do harmonica repairs for many years.

It was at one of these meetings that he met Derek Yorke and with the help of a chord player called Ron Mealin, they formed Three-in-Accord. A local headmaster, John Tyler, joined to play bass and so began Four in Accord. There were several personnel changes over the years. Jack Lewis took over the chord when Ron left. When John Tyler died, Dave helped Jim O’Driscoll to take on the bass. Jack Lewis left and Pat Lynus took over on chords. Four in Accord were the last performing quartet in the country and played all over Essex and Kent as well as at harmonica festivals.

Travelling to gigs became a problem for Pat so Roy Green took over the chord for the final line-up of the group after the Bournemouth Centennial festival in 2000. This line-up appeared a number of times at NHL Festivals up to 2007.

Four in Accord with Pat Lynas

Four in Accord with Roy Green

All of the group were members of the National Harmonica League (now HarmonicaUK) and Dave served on the committee for several years in the 1990s as the Secretary. Together they organised joint meetings with the Dartford Folk Club and ran important NHL festivals in Sible Hedingham. They were also important members of the IHO and were very involved with the Millenium Festival run by John Walton in Bournemouth in 2000.

Dave had to stop playing in his later years due to ill health, but he was always good company and a great musician.

Four in Accord – El Cumbanchero
Dave Beckford – Genevieve

A Tribute to Tommy Morgan (1932 – 2022)

I met Tommy Morgan when I travelled to Denver in 2001 for my first visit to a SPAH convention. My friend Douglas Tate had just become President of SPAH and I was the new Chairman of Harmonica UK (then the NHL). Two proud Yorkshiremen guiding two great organisations.

Douglas and Tommy were friends as was evident from their workshops and concerts. I stayed in email contact with Tommy up to the end, finally through Tommy’s great friend Jon Kip.

Tommy’s long history and musical activities have been well chronicled in the obituaries listed below. He took up chromatic harmonica at school and was fortunate to have lessons from Jerry Adler, who later got him his first recording session. After spells with the U.S. Air Force band and tours on his own throughout the 1950s Tommy built up his musical skills from arrangers like Sammy Nestico and a Masters Degree from UCLA. He also added the chord and bass harmonicas to his armoury. Tommy’s site reading improved and he began to set up his own recording sessions.

The 1960s was the beginning of the Golden Age of film and TV themes and producers were looking for harmonica players. Tommy had the skills and would tackle anything. He became the “go-to” man for recording sessions, something he did for decades. Tommy said he had done over 900 film scores and 7000 recording sessions.

Art Daane – harmonica performer and collector

Art Daane Cartoon
Art Daane

Art M. Daane was born in Rotterdam, Holland, in 1934 and he died in Eindhoven, Holland on 23 January, 2021. He was 87. He had lived a full life with his family and he will be missed by the world wide harmonica community for the work he did to document the artists and music he loved. He produced an exceptional archive which he shared with other collectors.

Art started out playing chromatic harmonica but he moved to bass harmonica after hearing the 5 Hotchas. He played with many harmonica groups.

In the 1951 he moved to South Africa to work as a butcher. Art met a chromatic player, Vincent van Rooyen, and in 1954 they formed The Relda Trio. Art moved back to Holland in 1961. He continued to play, even during his six year stay in New Zealand.

In 1989 Art went to the Word Harmonica Festival in Trossingen, Germany where he was reunited with Vincent von Rooyen and many other harmonica friends. On his return to Helmond he started the Catstown Harmonica Club.

Art loved to teach and promote the harmonica and the people who play it. He spent a lot of time doing research and writing articles about them. With support from his friends he established a Harmonica Museum in The Netherlands, in 1999. Part of the collection is the “Harmonica Hall of Fame” collected by Art and ex-Harmonica Rascal Lou Delin. After the opening, Art restarted The Relda Trio again but this time with Art on chord.

Unfortunately his deep involvement in harmonica organisations like the IHO, led to visits to South Africa and various European countries to promote the harmonica and a visit to Singapore and Malaysia, so he resigned from the trio in March 2002. More visits to South Africa followed to set up a harmonica school and he reformed the original Relda Trio from the 50’s with Vincent van Rooyen to record one of Vincent’s own compositions “Wineland Seties” for Art’s CD project in Holland. This project is a compilation of Dutch harmonica players 1947-2002.

Art emigrated to South Africa in 2004 where he met up with an old friend Johann Kok and they performed as the Helderberg Harmonica Duo until Johann’s death in 2008.

Art moved to Florida, USA in 2017, but in November 2020 he returned home to Holland. He had been ill for many years and he died from complications caused by covid in Jan 2021.

I have been involved with the National Harmonica League (UK) – now HarmonicaUK – as Chairman, Archivist and Editor of its magazine, Harmonica World, for around 20 years. I first met Art in 2000 in Bournemouth and we stayed in contact until his death.

We had many common interests in chromatic players like Ronald Chesney and Art’s fellow countryman, Max Geldray as well as the well known European, Asian and American soloists and harmonica groups.

Art was in contact with many other collectors of harmonica music, including two from England, John Bryan and Brian Holland, who probably had the largest collection of information about the members of the Borrah Minevitch Rascals and many other groups. Following the death of John and Brian these collections came to me – Roger Trobridge

Dror Adler – The Classical Project

I originally published this article in Harmonica World in June 2006. I think it is worth including it here. Dror wrote:

I have been a member of the Adler Trio since we formed it in 1963.

Here is a little bit of history and the background that led to the recording of my new CD, The Classical Project. A unique 8 year activity in which full symphonic works were recorded by myself playing all the parts on harmonica.

I have been a recording freak ever since professional tape recorders became affordable. The Adler Trio’s first LP record was recorded on a British made ‘Brenell’. Other LPs were recorded using Swiss ‘Revox’ recorders. At the end of the tape recorder era we owned an 8 track Tascam machine with DBX noise reduction system, on which we recorded our last vinyl record of Israeli music.

Next came hard disk recording, which revolutionised the recording industry and made it affordable for anyone to achieve recordings of unprecedented quality. When I first started recording on a computer it was not possible to handle more than about 6 separate tracks of music and yet the feeling was like leaping from the Stone Age to the Space Age. The pristine sound, the editing possibilities and the ease of work were amazing. After gaining reasonable control of the computer recording I started an experiment – the experiment that led to the Classical Project.

Since I can play chord, lead and bass harmonicas, I decided to record a classical piece that I loved – all by myself – playing the different harmonicas on different tracks. That was in 1997.

The piece was taken from Khachaturian’s ‘Spartacus’ ­ Variations of Aegina-Bacchanal.

The score I had was for two pianos, out of which I made an arrangement for two chromatics, chords and bass. In some cases the bass role was separated to two different tracks.

I was so excited by the results that I decided to record another piece, and this time, a more ambitious one – Elgar’s ‘Pomp and Circumstance March Op. 39 No.1’. For this I went to the Tel Aviv Music Academy and got the orchestral score from which I made an arrangement for about 8 different roles. For trombones and french horns I used several tracks of bass harmonicas. I also used Hohner special effects chromatic harmonicas and any other type of harmonicas to get different ‘colours’ of sound.

After completing the second piece I knew that I would not rest until I had completed a full CD. As time went by, the computers got more powerful and the software smarter and I got more ambitious. The last piece recorded was the most ambitious one: again, from Khachaturian’s Spartacus – Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia (This was used as soundtrack of the British TV series ‘The Onedin Line’). Here I recorded all the different roles of the original orchestral score. This is a short extract to show what I achieved.

I did the same with the full ‘Dance of the hours’ by Ponchieli. These are the two most demanding works in this project. The fact that I was able to record each role in it in short phrases or musical sentences made the whole thing possible. Here is how I did it.

I learned the phrase on the Lead, bass or chords and recorded it by loop recording, playing it again and again until I got a good take, and then on to the next phrase. The auto punch-in function of the computer enabled seamless continuity. I always started with the lead role. Each role was recorded on a different track. For all the treble instruments I used chromatics – Hohner 270 and Suzuki Magic Garden. For a piece of ballet music from Faust I even played the harp arpeggios on chromatic. For violas, bassoons, contrabasses, horns, etc., I used standard Suzuki bass harmonicas and the Tombo Contrabass harmonica. Chords were played by my unique slide chord, developed by me and built for me by Suzuki.

In order to play the score as written I sometimes had to retune my harmonicas to produce the correct trills or passages. I tuned a bass harmonica so that impossible passages would be on one deck only, and in a row, to allow them to be to be played as written. In fact, this project can be compared to the movie making process where small segments become a one full length creation. There were many times when I almost decided to quit, but when I listened again to what I had already done, I could not help going back to it. It was finally completed in October 2005.

For further information and copies of the CD, contact Dror Adler
email: droradler3@gmail.com

Visit the Classical Project website for the rest of the music.


by Gianandrea Pasquinelli – with contributions from Roger Trobridge, Steve Jennings, Pat Missin, Dror Adler, Al Smith and Brendan Power.

This blog post gives links to information and media about the artists who are discussed in my introduction to the book written by Gianandrea. The Handbook of Chord and Bass Harmonica.

BiographyBorrah Minevitch and the Harmonica Rascals
Video TributeCompiled by Brian Holland (30 mins) from John Bryan’s archive recordings
Videos – Borrah Minevitch and His Harmonica Rascals from the film Tramp, Tramp, Tramp (1942) and their comedy routine on stage.
Audio recordings – The Best of Borrah Minevitch on Spotify or Amazon

Larry Adler
BiographyLarry Adler
Video – The young Larry playing St Louis Blues and Stardust , Clair de lune from the film Music for Millions in1944, and a great video of Summertime from when he was 80.
Audio – Larry Adler on Spotify and Amazon

John Sebastian Sr
Biography – On Wikipedia
Video – No videos are available.
Audio – There are audio tracks on YouTube, and his recordings appear on eBay. 78s, vinyl and a CD – John Sebastian Plays Bach , A Harmonica Recital, Profile of John Sebastian, and John Sebastian Plays Villa-Lobos/ Tcherepnin Concertos for Harmonica.

Captain James Reilly
Biography Captain James Reilly
Publicationssee bottom of the page

The Harmonicats and Pete Pederson
Biography Jerry Murad web site and this one , plus Pete Pedersen’s biography available on used book sites
40th anniversary party cassette recording (audio)
Videos Peg O’My Heart and Scheherazade

Tommy Reilly
Biography Tommy Reilly
VideosMichael Spivakovsky’s Concerto for Harmonica Midnight Cowboy , Serenade for unaccompanied harmonica and a medley of five Standards: Thanks for the Memory, Smoke gets in your eyes, One night of love, Misty, The way you look tonight and When the begin the Beguine.

The Hotchas
VideosHungarian Rhapsody No 2Bi-Ba-Butzemann-Boogie , Jazz me blues (Trio) , Bambino Rag , Der Onkel Jonathan

Toots Thielemans – jazz guitarist, whistler and harmonica player
Biography – Here is a great Wikipedia page ,
Videos – with Billy Joel Leave a tender moment alone , with Sting Shape of my Heart , Dolphin Dance , Three views to a Secret with “Jaco” Pastorius, and here is a collection of performances with some images

and a segue through one of my most favourite harmonica videos.
Toots Thielemans meets Stevie Wonder – Bluesette

Stevie Wonder
Videos – here is his fantastic performance at the age of 12!, Fingertips , For once in my life , Isn’t she lovely , All Blues , Spain .

Cham-Ber Huang
Biography Website biography
VideosCham-Ber in his workshoP (1972) , Cham-Ber with Larry Adler (1987) , Chordomonica Demo Recording .

Adler Trio
BiographyThe Adler Trio website
VideosThe Good, Bad and The Ugly, and Tico Tico.

Fata Morgana
Biography Website biography
Videos Medley 1993 , Putting on the Ritz , Profile of Fata Morgana

Asia and The Far East – the future of Orchestral playing?
BiographySirius Facebook , Judy’s Harmonica Ensemble
Videos – Fata Morgana and Sirius play Toledo , and The Adler Trio and Judy’s Harmonica Ensemble play HarmoniCadence – Roots

Sväng Harmonica Quartet
BiographyWebsite biography
VideosInterview with Sväng , Hedwig Theme

Brendan Power
Biography Website biography
VideosThree Kerry Polkas , The Future of the Harmonica

Borrah Minevitch & His Harmonica Rascals

By Art M. Daane

The Immigrant

Born in Kiev, Russia, November 5, 1902 [real name Borah Minjevic].
At the age of ten, Borrah’s family immigrated to the United States. Because of ill health father Minevitch was refused an entry permit, and had to return home almost immediately. However a short time later the family was reunited, but not for long though, Minevitch Sr. passed away very suddenly. Mrs. Minevitch now had to raise the family, two boys and five girls, all by herself. She turned their home into a guesthouse to support all of them.

Settling down

After school, Borrah sold newspapers, studied the violin, and practiced his harmonica. Against the wish of the family, he left for New York when he turned 18. He went on to study at the City College, and worked in a greengrocer’s store, a shoe store and a kindergarten to earn his living. For his graduation thesis subject he chose the harmonica and called it ” The History and Shortcomings of the Harmonica as a musical instrument .” A harmonica manufacturer sold 50.000 copies.

The Half-tone Harmonica

His biggest wish was to own a Half Tone Harmonica, so that he would be able to play real music. The firm that manufactured these had stopped production because of low sales. During one of his habitual strolls, he saw one in a music shop for five dollars. He could not afford it but asked the salesman if he could try it at a deposit of ten cents. Several times a week he used to hop into the store to play it and pay his ten cents. Not having sold one in three years the salesman must have found him a bit strange.
When one of his sisters came to visit, she wanted to treat Borrah to a show and dinner, instead he asked her to buy the chromatic. She didn’t like the idea but eventually gave in. He mentioned to the man in the shop that it looked rather worn and should come down in price, he refused at first but let it go for 3 dollars and twenty-five cents, he was frightened that it would be in the window for another three years. A few weeks later, the instrument became faulty.
Borrah then went to see the manufacturer and asked the man in charge for a refund. The man told him that he was crazy to ask for a refund on a ten-year-old instrument. Borrah apologized and started to play a tune which left the man so surprised that he gave him a brand new one.

The Band It was in 1925 when Minevitch formed his first group. In 1926, when playing as a soloist in a charity show at the famous Carnegie Hall, he told the public that he had a surprise in mind. When the curtain opened, the public saw a group some thirty boys, formally dressed and looking like serious musicians, sitting with harmonica in hand. They played ‘Deep River’ and received an enormous ovation and requested for more, which left them satisfied and yet embarrassed because it was the only piece they had studied.
Buoyed up by the success with the first harmonica band at the famous Carnegie Hall, it was clear to him that there could be more success with a harmonica band in Vaudeville theaters. The time was right for a professional approach.


The first invitation for the Symphonic Harmonica Ensemble came in 1927. Because of the classical touch to the name, the public expected them to play classical music. Minevitch probably tried what Edwin Frank Goldman had done for the brass band, making it exceptable for concert halls. The vaudeville public was bored stiff and Minevitch dropped the act.

The Harmonica Rascals

During a show at the Hebrew Orphans Asylum (H.O.A.), a Daily News photographer had shot Lou Delin with three boys, one on each arm and one on his shoulder. They wore W.W.1 uniforms and all four-played harmonica; the photograph was published nation wide. This picture gave Borrah the idea of a new vaudeville group. A few weeks later he visited H.O.A. and met Lou and the leader of the mouth-organ orchestra of Charles Snow. He was introduced to the band members, one of them was Ben Dansky who together with Lou was invited to join Minevitch.

“Borrah Minevitch and his Harmonica Rascals” became very popular despite rivals like; Charlie Snow’s Broadway Pirates; Charles Bennington’s N.Y. Newsboys Harmonica Band; Cappy Barras Harmonica Ensemble; Johnny O’Brien’s Harmonica Hi-Hats; Murray Lane’s Harmonica Scamps, and many, many more. Almost every city in the United States had one or more harmonica groups during the “Harmonica Madness.” Minevitch assembled well over 100 quality players over the years.
Best known are undoubtedly; Ernie Morris (his tone still has to be equalled), Louis ‘Fuzzy’ Feldman ( Borrah’s favourite called the chugger), Johnny Puleo (the shortest with the largest harmonica of that time).


Borrah’s Rascals had become immensely popular, they had success after success. It was a big shock when, in June 1932, an article appeared in all major newspapers, “Borrah Minevitch feared drowned” when two days overdue in Tunis.
In a telegram to S. Jay Kaufman, Mrs. Minevitch reported that her husband had already been missing for four days, and that she was extremely worried because he had not arrived in Corsica.
Borrah had been on his way to Abbessinia, Ethiopia, to go hunting, to pay his debt from a gambling spree. He sailed on his schooner “Lydia”, named after his daughter. On June 2, 1932, the New York Times announced his safety; his Corsican crew had kidnapped him.

Hollywood and Europe

A New York newspaper announced in 1934, under the heading “Borrah Minevitch auditions” the following message: “The famous harmonica virtuoso Borrah Minevitch will hold auditions on Friday next from 17.00-19.00 hours, for harmonica players in the age group 16-30, for American and European groups at Malin Studios on 225 w, 26th Street. This was a natural progression of what started in 1933, when the Rascals appeared on the screen in many so-called “shorts”. Borrah, as a soloist, featured in the 1935 movie “Dreamland” with Eddie Cantor.
Their big success came in 1936 when they featured in “One in a Million” with Sonja Henie and Don Ameche. There was no end to their success, 1937, ” Love under Fire ” with John Carradine and Frances Drake, 1938, “Rascals ” with Jane Withers and Robert Wilcox, Hit Parade of 1941 ” with Phil Silver, also in 1941 ” Always in my Heart ” with Walter Houston and Kay Francis, 1942, “Tramp, tramp, tramp”, and “Top Man” in 1943 with Donald O’Connor.
The 1935 European tour was a tremendous success. It was in Amsterdam, when a Dutch harmonica group went to see the “Harmonica Rascal Show”, that Borrah took the time to listen to these five players. Borrah said, ” You’re not musicians! You’re Hotchas “. From then on they called themselves “The 5 Hotchas”.
The concert in “Queens Hall”, London, on Sunday Feb. 16, 1936 was a memorable performance. Although mentioned on the program as an orchestra of 12 virtuosi. The photograph, taken during the show, only shows 10 performers. The list of players on page 7 of the program also only mentions ten.
A puzzle indeed.
Borrah Minevitch and His Symphonic Harmonicas Harold Liechtenstein
Leo Diamond
Ernest Morris
Abe Diamond
John Puleo
Al Furbish
Irvin Crane
Alex Novelle
Louis Feldman
James Kenneth
The repertoire on page 4-5 of the program:
1. Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov
2. The Bumble Bee by Rimsky-Korsakov
3. St. Louis Blues by W. S. Handy
4. Mississippi Suite by Grofé
(a) Fathers of Waters
(b) Huckleberry Finn
(c) Old Creole Days
(d) Mardi Gras
5. Suite Philharmonica by Minevitch-Diamond
6. Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin
7. First Composition by “Pastoral” (aged 15) Eric Coates
8. Tango Land by …arr. Minevitch
9. Retrospections by Forsyth
10. Bolero by Ravel

Pete ‘n Jerry

It was in Chicago, where Pete Pedersen, and some of his friends, were rehearsing in the park (The Park Harmonica Band), when he was trying to get an impossible note from his harmonica. They played the song faultless, except for that single note, when suddenly a man appeared. The man was at least six years older than Pete, who was 15 at the time, was. The man showed him a chromatic harmonica, and Pete was allowed to try it. Immediately he got the impossible note. Pete.. “I never let him out of my sight”. The man….was Jerry Murad.
Shortly after, Jerry and his brother, Pete Pedersen, Al Fiore, and the Hadamik brothers had formed a band, and when the Rascals came to Chicago, they visited them “back stage”, where they were playing when suddenly “Mr. Harmonica” appeared in the doorway. They stood perplexed, standing eye to eye with “The Maestro”, and they were not dreaming.
Minevitch asked them to play something, and then he asked Pete, who was the youngest, if his parents would allow him to join the Rascals. Pete didn’t hesitate a second, and said…”Yes!” Even if his parents would not agree, he would go anyway.
He walked around, head in the clouds, but….no word from Minevitch. He had already put it out of his head as just one of those things, when, just before Christmas, a telegram and a train ticket arrived with the request to join the group in Los Angeles. Jerry Murad had received the same, and together they went into the big world of entertainment.

The Rascals

During the period that Pete and Jerry joined, Richard ‘Dick’ Hayman asked Hugh ‘Pud’ McKaskey if he wanted to join Johnny Puleo’s group. Johnny had left Minevitch about a contract problem, and wanted to set up his own group. Pud grabbed the opportunity, because the “Stagg McMann Trio” had dissolved. His two friends, Paul Steigerwald and Mannie Smith, joined the army.
The complete group lived at Johnny’s parents home, in the basement to be correct, where they also rehearsed. This episode only lasted a little while, Borrah had soon found Johnny’s whereabouts. Johnny had no option as to return. His contract was for life!
This is one of the reasons for the so-called ‘second group’. Insiders talk of the East and West Coast groups. The other reason, Borrah had contracted Sammy Ross to replace Johnny while he was in hiding. It was Sammy who performed in the movie short “The Borrah Minevitch Harmonica School”. Other players were: Dave Doucette, Carl Ford, Ben Burley, Ernie Morris, Hugh MacKaskey, Etto Manieiri, Pat Marquis and Frank Marquis.
Other movie shorts that were enjoyed in many movie theaters were:
“My Shawl”, “Boxcar Rhapsody”, “Camping”, and “New York Radio”, all with the so-called “Leo Diamond group”.
Borrah went into semi-retirement in 1949, and gave the scepter over to Johnny, afterwards he was seldom seen. He died of a stroke in Paris, France on June 26, 1955. He was 52 years old.

Borrah´s gravestone at the Paris Cemetry
photograph by René Haboyan
René cleaned the grave in 2002 with the above result

Johnny Puleo Harmonica Gang

Johnny was under the impression that, “Harmonica Rascals” was a registered trademark owned by Minevitch. Johnny changed from ‘Rascals’ to ‘Gang’, and stayed successful with ex-Rascals like Eddie Gordon, Al Smith, and Dave Doucette. New Gang members were, Bill McLean, George Whitcombe, Hal Harmon. During the “Gang” period, seven LPs were recorded. Johnny is also mentioned on a double LP “Johnny Puleo and the Chimes Family”, re-released on CD “Harmonica Gold.”

Lydia Minevitch Harmonica Rascals

In 1959, Lydia Minevitch tried to revive the “Harmonica Rascals” with Alex Novelle as the leader, Bobby Dimler became the new ‘comedian’. On August 7, 1959 ‘Variety’ wrote, ” Borrah Minevitch Harmonica Rascals – Instrumental Comedy – 20 minutes – Black Orchids”. The critics however were not mild. “The world wasn’t waiting for another ‘Johnny Puleo Harmonica Gang’.”

Paul Baron Harmonica Rascals

When Paul Baron realized that the ‘Harmonica Rascals’ was not a registered trademark, he made it his own.
Together with Bob Bauer – ? Bonden – Bruce Broglie – Gene Broglie – Michael Burton – Pat Candelorie – Pete Candelorie – Don Cardie – Peg Carter – Debbie Dell – Bobby Dimmler [diminitive] – Monti Dowdy – John Duffy – Al Duffy – Nick Fashenbauer – Joe Fresna – Eddie Gordon – Henry Graham – Frank Groven – Phil Gula – Kim Gutin – Hal Harmon – Arnold Lundberg – Kearney, Bill – Kerner, Nick – Kibber, Jack – Koss, Ed – LeFever, Robert – Levine, Howard – Levine, Harriet – Little, Tiny – Bill McLean – Richie Miller – Ralph Mindo – Dick Mobley – Charlie Moll – Charlie Newman – Tom O’Brien – Ralph Orsello – Andy Paskas – Vito Patierno – Don Powell – Bobby Pursell – Paul Reel – ? Rico – Bob Rudd – Roy Rumfelt – Tom Scerbo – Mike Sheppard – ? Smith – Larry Stutz – Bob Stutz – Tubby Tee – Ernie Terino – George Wagner – Greg Walker – Frank Warner – Paul West – Gary Wheeler – Danny Wilson – Willie Wolfschmidt and Dave Zaval he revived the ‘Harmonica Rascals’.

Charlie Leighton’s 65th birthday party, June 24th, 1986

A humorous, musical tribute recording compiled by Tabby Andriello for Charlie Leighton’s 65th birthday party in 1986. It contains rare recordings from Charley’s illustrious career with the Philharmonicas, Cappy Barra and as a soloist. It was played at the party attended by Charley’s wife, Roseann, Tabby Andriello, Phil Solomon, Stan Harper, Charles Spranklin, Richard Gain, Don Smith …. and many others.

The Harmonicats 40th Anniversary Testimonial Concert 1981

It Was a Great Celebration . . . Thanks, Everyone? by Norm Dobson

This audio is taken from a cassette recording of most of the concert. Microphone placement and the age of the tape has affected the quality somewhat.

Edited from Harmonica Happenings, Spring 1981.

Well, the long awaited testimonial to the Jerry Murad Harmonicats is history. I can’t believe that back in September of 1979 when I first began to plan this event, that time would fly by so quickly. You have, I’m sure, by now heard from those who were here on there that the weekend was a complete success.

I personally am indebted to first of all, the harmonica, to SPAH and Harmonica Happenings. The harmonica, of course, has become or is the common denominator. Through SPAH and H-H. I got to know so many harmonica players across the country, and met the German Blizza Harmonica Gang and through them, met many other European players. I am especially grateful to Jerry Murad’s Harmonicats — they made it all happen.

Jerry Murad, Al Fiore, Dick Gardner, and Pete Pedersen played a selection of four tunes from their classical LP, “Harmonica Rhapsody” and several more of their hits.

The “New Harmonic Tramps” of Switzerland, Ruedi Frey on the lead, Walti Noethinger on chord, and Heinz Stampfi, on bass played on the Friday night but were not recorded on this tape. Then followed the Harmonica Brothers of West Germany. The sextet is made up of two active trios, the Blizza Harmonica Gang of Gladbeck, West Germany – Siegfried Brugier, Eugen Feltin, and Svegnar Kreitz – and the Picca Trio of Leichlingen, West Germany – Hans-Guenter Post, Adolf Nagel, and Ulrich Ott. They opened their show as a sextet playing a most impressive selection arranged by Leo Diamond entitled, “Japanese Sandman”. There then were three selections by the Picca Trio, followed by another selection by the Harmonica Brothers, and three tunes by the Blizza Harmonica Gang. It all ended with the sextet playing a Svegnar Kreitz arrangement of “Chancon d’amour.” Afterwards, the Germans presented the Harmonicats with three of the largest, ornate steins I’ve ever seen!

Among the notables in attendance were Leo Diamond. Time and space just won’t permit naming everyone. I was impressed with Joe Mass and his family of California, Al Smith , Earl Williams and Judy Simpson. Everyone was just great.

Then Jack totally surprised me with a document that left me speechless. The award read as follows:

PROCLAMATIONinsofar as the honorable NORM DOBSON never seems to run out of breath in the service of The Harmonica & Harmonica Players everywhere, he is hereby declared the Official & Perpetual WORLD AMBASSADOR FOR HARMONICA. Presented April 25, 1981, on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary Testimonial Dinner for Jerry Murad’s Harmonicats. M. Hohner, Inc. – Signed: Frank Hohner, Chariman, Lee James, President, Jack Kavoukian, Director of Marketing

There were five countries represented at the testimonial — Canada, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Holland. Unmentioned previously, Cy Segeal, Canada; Gautam Choudhury and Piet Moerer, Holland; and our dedicated travellers from Sweden, Ulf and Jan Wahlberg.

My sincere thanks again to all for their support, and to the many who made the long trek to Danvers — especially to the Jerry Murad Harmonicats and their wives. My oh my, “Wasn’t That A Party?”

You can read a Tribute to Norm Dobson on this post.

SPAH – The first 20 years

The Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica, SPAH, was founded in 1963 by Earl Collins (1924-88), Gordon Mitchell (1927-2001) and Richard Harris (1938-2015). Fortunately, the youngest member of the trio, Richard Harris, was an enthusiastic photographer and recording engineer so you get a chance to hear the history of SPAH as it was happening.

This blog post is taken from a cassette tape of the soundtrack of a video that Richard made in 1983, from his vast archive of recordings, to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of SPAH. It is tribute to Richard Harris as well as SPAH. Richard was ahead of his time. Without his foresight and hard work this detailed audio history would not have been possible.

Here are Richard’s notes which accompanied the cassette he sent.

SPAH – The First 20-Years – featuring “THE HARMONICA MEN”, trio. Produced and narrated by: Richard Harris.
History of SPAH via music and the spoken word. Relive excerpts from the first SPAH meeting, Dec. 1962. Here the voice of founder Earl Collins, words of wisdom from harmonica greats like Tommy Reilly, Blackie Shackner. Remember firsts such as Richard Hayman’s Harmonica Concerto, April 1978, the first CanSPAH concert November 1965. And the radio and TV programs – a sampling includes the “I’ve Got A Secret” Show and the 8′ harmonica that stumped the panel. But, that’s history – history that will be remembered by early SPAH members and now 20 years later by you. All on a premium cassette in stereo (recorded 1983 converted to digital in 2018).

You can read more about the history of SPAH by visiting the excellent SPAH Archives webpage written by Manfred Wewers.

Franz Chmel – 1944 to 2016 – The Archivist

Franz Chmel was regarded by some as the best classical chromatic harmonica player. He was born on 26th February 1944 in St.Pölten, Austria. Franz started playing harmonica at the age of six and when he was 12 years old he founded the successful Piccolo Harmonica Trio with his elder brothers.

Franz Chmel
Franz Chmel

Between 1957 and 1965 he took many top three prizes as a soloist and group performer in National, European and World Harmonica Championships. Then in 1965 he suddenly stopped playing harmonica and went back to his work as an engineer…

In 1987 he made a comeback and immediately found success in festivals and competitions. He was well known in his home country, Austria, and he played at the Austrian Presidential inaugural ceremony. He toured Morocco and performed in Armenia, Germany, Switzerland France and Japan. He was also www.chmel.at invited to perform at the 5th Asia-Pacific Harmonica Festival in 2005 in Hong Kong.

Franz was a perfectionist and he practiced many hours a day to achieve what he knew to be possible. He worked hard on his technique and developed his distinctive tongue vibrato. His practice regime was breaking his harmonicas and so he set about developing his own design which would maintain their tuning and have longer lasting reeds. This resulted in the NC64. Only three were made. He played one and two more were sold. They were hand made and each one took over 200 hours to assemble and adjust for the performer. There is more on his website

His determination to become a master of technique and harmonica design led to him becoming involved with Michael Timler and HarpOnLine, where such things were discussed. Michael put on a concert in Ulm where Franz played with Howard Levy. Howard was impressed enough to invite Franz to join him and Joe Filisko for a very eclectic concert in Chicago, Harmonica Convergence, in 2006.

Franz’s musical success led to meetings with James Moody and some other composers who wrote music for him. Franz recorded five albums of Classical Music and his last recordings were with his latest harmonica, the NC64.

You can hear Franz play on his YouTube videos, many which he uploaded just before his death on August 18, 2016, aged 72. These videos show his phenomenal technique as well as many of the best known transcriptions of classical music for harmonica.

This was taken from the October 2016 issue of Harmonica World magazine.