Nick Reynolds, The Alabama 3 via The Sopranos to The Simpsons

I love to hear the harmonica adding some atmosphere to a film or TV show. Unfortunately the musician who plays the music is rarely credited.

The Alabama 3

I was watching an episode of a series on Channel 5 (British TV) called Finders Keepers and there in the background was that harmonica sound. I checked the website and wrote to the producer and he told me the music was by the Alabama 3, a group from Brixton, in London. Feeling pleased with myself, I watched the program again and saw that their name was on the opening credits…

I visited the Alabama 3 website and found out more about their harmonica player, Nick Reynolds.

Nick Reynolds

Nick was born in London in 1962 and his first band was in the Royal Navy in1979. In 1983, whilst serving in Navy Intelligence in Whitehall, he played with the reformed 60’s group The Pretty Things until 1985 when he went to Australia. On his return to London in 1989 he played in a series of groups – Les Grandes Branleurs, Backstreet Band, the Brit-pop band Octopus, and the experimental electro jazz band Blowpipe before becoming part of the Alabama 3 in 2001. There are more than 3 members and they don’t come from Alabama.

Woke up this morning

Alabama 3 were a new band to me and we don’t have any TV subscription channels. This may explain why when I started looking at their recordings I was unaware of the world wide fame they had achieved when their recording of Woke up this morning was used for the opening credits of The Sopranos. The bluesy rap song with influences from Howlin’ Wolf, Mississippi Fred McDowell and Muddy Waters.

From The Sopranos to The Simpsons

I went off in search of news of The Sopranos and found some great videos and parodies of the opening credits to the TV show.

The Sopranos opening credits
The Simpsons Parody

Alabama 3 in concert

Here are two performances of Woke up this morning by Alabama 3. The first one live in concert and a second small group acoustic one with more of Nick on harmonica.

Woke up this morning – Belladrum 2023
Work up this morning – Cigar Box Sessions 2015

More on Nick Reynolds, harmonica player, writer, sculptor, artist, composer and producer here.

Midnight Cowboy – Toots Thielemans or Tommy Reilly – solved!

The theme from Midnight Cowboy is one of the best known pieces of music played on harmonica.

This is the version from the Soundtrack Album of John Barry’s music for the Jerome Hellman – John Schlesinger film Midnight Cowboy.

Everyone knows who played it, don’t they…
It was Toots, wasn’t it???

I stumbled over this question when someone told me it wasn’t Toots Thielemans, it was the British harmonica soloist, Tommy Reilly. It turned out to be more complicated than this.

The making of Midnight Cowboy

John Schlesinger began filming Midnight Cowboy in Florida, Texas and New York in 1968 and during 6 months of post production he realised that he needs some contemporary music for the film. John Barry had written music for Bond films and had also been involved with the UK popular music scene in the 60s as the leader of the John Barry Seven, and an arranger for pop singers, so he was asked to supervise the music for the film.

Some of the music had already been chosen, like Fred Neil’s Everybody’s Talkin‘, sung by Harry Nillson, but more, dramatic music was needed – something which was to become as famous as Everybody’s Talkin‘. A lonely harmonica tune that almost anyone could play.

The recording of the harmonica soundtrack with Toots Thielemans

John Barry said, “I wrote the harmonica theme, in which the counter melody is more important than the melody, giving a general repetitive feeling like going nowhere, to reflect the underbelly of New York. For the actual melody, I wanted something very unsophisticated, that any guy sitting outside a gas station in Texas could play. “

“We kept the instrumentation very simple, 12 string guitars, a rhythm section and the harmonica, so that the theme of Midnight Cowboy in the score would fit in with the musical language of the Nillson song.”

Toots Thielemans was living near New York at that time and his chromatic harmonica brought great tenderness and longing to the theme. He also can be heard on some of the re-recorded Nielsen pieces in the earlier part of the film. All the harmonica heard during the film is played by Toots.

The recording of the Film Music Album with Tommy Reilly

The commercial release of music from the film Midnight Cowboy is a bit more complicated. Eight of the twelve tracks on the sound track LP, called the Original Motion Picture Score released by United Artists Records (Liberty 1A 054-90639), were from the New York film soundtrack recordings, but the other four tracks, including Midnight Cowboy and Joe Buck rides again, were recorded in London in June 1969. This time the harmonica on Midnight Cowboy and Joe Buck rides again was played by Tommy Reilly. Any other harmonica heard on this album is by Toots.

The release of the single versions of the Midnight Cowboy Theme

Following the release of the LP soundtrack album, Toots and John Barry released a 7″ single (45rpm) of Midnight Cowboy on Columbia and Tommy Reilly and The John Scott Orchestra released a 7″ single (45rpm) version on Polydor.

Toots Thielemans and John Barry
Tommy Reilly and John Scott

These recordings show that it was Tommy’s idea to bend the notes in the main theme. Tommy always thought that that Toots was perfect for the movie and did a fantastic job.

The double CD “Midnight Cowboy – Expanded Original MGM Motion Picture Score

Much of this information comes from the CD notes of the excellent and comprehensive double CD “Midnight Cowboy – Expanded Original MGM Motion Picture Score“. [Quartet Records – QR434, MGM Records – QR434, Universal – QR434].

CD1 has the original LP tracks and some bonus tracks, including alternate versions of Toots playing Midnight Cowboy. CD2 has the music from the original film score. The CD booklet does not say Joe Buck rides again was played by Tommy Reilly.

Background to the John Barry recordings in London

Tommy Reilly’s manager, Sigmund Groven, added more background to the reason for the London re-recording of Midnight Cowboy. “John Barry had worked with Tommy several times before, including on the 1966 Marlon Brando film “The Chase” (soundtrack on CD: Varese Sarabande VSD-5229), and he wanted to feature Tommy in the Midnight Cowboy score.

As it happened Tommy was unavailable; he was on tour in Australia at the time, so John Barry asked Toots to play in the film. However, when Tommy was home after his Australian tour, John Barry was very pleased to be able to use him on the London sessions for the album.”

There are some great videos of Tommy and Toots playing Midnight Cowboy.

Toots plays Midnight Cowboy at 90 years old
Tommy Reilly plays Midnight Cowboy on Dutch TV

Extra Information.

1 – There are two recordings of the theme from Midnight Cowboy recorded by Toots Thielemans and John Barry after the release of the film. The commercial 45rpm version (above) has a “fattened” harmonica sound (flanger?) and the alternative take, which is also on the double CD, sounds like a straight mono recording.

2 – Popular concerts of John Barry’s music (including Midnight Cowboy and Dancing with Wolves) provided regular work for harmonica players. In the UK this has included Jim Hughes and Harry Pitch when Tommy Morgan could not make it from California. Phil Hopkins was once summoned to John Barry’s house in London as there were problems with Tommy Morgan’s UK visa.

Phil auditioned successfully and returned home to practice hard for the concert at the Albert Hall. Just before the performance he got a message that the visa had arrived and Tommy would do the gig. Phil got a cancellation fee and acknowledged that the audience got a better deal hearing Tommy Morgan play the harmonica themes.

3 – Shortly after the London recordings for the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack album Tommy had a telephone call from Polydor Hamburg where he had already made two commercially very successful albums with Kai Warner: Melody Fair and Latin Harmonica. He flew over the next day. They played him a recording from a new film score and asked him if he could play the harmonica exactly the same as the uncredited player on the LP.

The first take was perfect. The producer said: “You are a genius”, and Tommy started to laugh. The producer said: “What are you laughing for?” and Tommy admitted: “That’s me playing on the original record!” The single (Polydor NH 59323), with John Scott as musical director, and with Tommy credited this time (!), climbed the charts in many countries. (Sigmund Groven)

4 – Despite the success of the two recordings by Toots Thielemans and Tommy Reilly, the version recorded by two pianists, Ferrante & Teicher, was nominated for the 1969 Grammy in the category Best Contemporary Instrumental Performance. I don’t think John Barry was very pleased either.

Harmonica Education – Courses for Chromatic and Diatonic Players

Finally, it is possible to study for a music degree. This is thanks to Gianluca Littera who has designed a syllabus for chromatic harmonica at a Music Conservatory in Rome, Italy – see end for more details.

This has been wanted for a long time and here is a summary of what I think has been tried in the past.

When Hohner established its first London headquarters in 1930, the new Managing Director, Dr Otto Meyer, realised that clubs and tuition were necessary to grow the two main sides of the business, accordion and harmonica. In 1935 he set up what became known the British College of Accordionists which produced the first draft of the BCA syllabus, now recognised as the standard of accordion achievement. Although it was discussed, no formal educational course was set up for the harmonica despite the recruitment of Captain James Reilly as Musical Director, the publishing of many tuition books and the establishment of a music school in Trossingen, Germany.

To award degrees three things are needed – an agreed syllabus, qualified teachers, and independent, respected examining body. In the UK, discussions with music colleges were unsuccessful. There is still no grade system for harmonica like those for piano, guitar etc… This may be a reason why the harmonica is often thought of as an inferior instrument or toy by other musicians.

Several exceptional students have been granted degrees by top Music Schools, after completing their normal study courses, but harmonica teachers have had to be co-opted to provide the teaching and evaluation required. Philip Achille graduated from the Royal College of Music in London, and Filip Jers graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm. Some harmonica players have been able to participate in courses which focus on the music being studied, such as jazz, rather than the instrument.

There have been other attempts to establish a formal education process on a more permanent basis. In 2005 the National University of Singapore Centre for the Arts launched the world’s first examination system for the study of chromatic harmonica with Yasuo Watani and Douglas Tate as examiners. This included distance, online assessment for the lower levels and in person examination for the higher levels. Unfortunately, this was stopped after a few years.

In recent years the development of the Internet has resulted in many uncontrolled teaching sites springing up, especially for diatonic harmonicas. This has been useful for beginners and for improving performance, but few have established any formal examination standards. Dave Barrett is probably the most established with his Levels of Achievement system. Rock School Ltd (RSL) have shown an interest in extending their teaching activities to instruments like the harmonica.

I am aware of two recent attempts to set up a university course for chromatic harmonica players. In 2022, Dr. George Miklas announced a brand-new course at the University of Lynchburg, USA, where college students can now study the harmonica for an applied music credit.

The most comprehensive approach I have seen is a degree course for chromatic harmonica players running at the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia in Rome, established and directed by Gianluca Littera. You can learn more about Gianluca, the syllabus and how this was developed by reading my blog page about it.

Harmonica Bench

I received an email from my friend Colin Parratt asking if I knew anything about a bench which his friend Martin had come across. I had to confess it didn’t know anything about it so he sent Martin’s photo to me. Martin lives in Folkestone (UK) and was the drummer in the barn dance band Colin used to play in.

The image looked like a bench based on a 7 hole harmonica. Across the back of the seat there is an inscription “Where Souls Meet”. The back of the bench was a strange shape so I decided to find out more about it.

There was an inscription on the side of the bench so I asked Colin to send me a picture of it so we could see what it said.

When I received Colin’s photo things became clearer. The plaque on the side read,

In memory of Arikę 

Musician, visual artist, teacher, therapist, inspirational blues harp player, father, grandfather and a proud black man.

At the bottom of the plaque was a QR code and when I scanned it it revealed a website –

The website belongs to a charity, Origins Untold, a volunteer arts organisation presenting music, poetry, visual arts, fashion and food inspired and created by people of the African diaspora.

The website shows an event was held 12th June 2022, the second anniversary of Arike‘s death, to unveil.
a Blues Harp bench, designed by Pete Phillips and made by Cut Once Woodworks. The group walked from the Bandstand on the Leas in Folkestone, down the Zig Zag path to the Lower Coastal Park, where the bench is situated.

Origins Untold was founded in 2015 by the late, great Arike (aka Stan Grant), who sadly passed away on 12 June 2020 after a tragic accident.

Arike’s vision for the organisation was to broaden and change the conversation about race and about members of the African diaspora. To honour this, it is committed to breaking stereotypes, making unseen connections and unearthing buried histories, acknowledging the contributions that Black people have made to the history of this region and to its present.

In memory of Arikẹ, founder of Origins Ontold1949-2020

“Whatever a Black man can do to remind himself that he is fully human, to do it and to keep doing it… I don’t think we need to do more than that…it is just to remind ourselves that we are fully human.”

Arikẹ, 2020

(from the Origins Untold website)


Harmonica Hotel

One of the pleasures of being Chairman of the NHL (now HarmonicaUK) for a long time was that I was able to meet and become friends with the international harmonica players who travelled to our annual festivals via London. We live about 30 mins from Heathrow airport so we were able to provide the artists with accommodation for a couple of days to relax and get rid of jet-lag before driving them down to the festival in Bristol. They stayed in our spare bedroom, vacant since our children flew the nest and set up their own homes.

I took all this for granted until this humorous Facebook post by Rob Paparozzi brought it all back.

Many of the other artists who had stayed with us joined in with their comments. How I wish we had kept a visitors’ book, but this was all so informal and unplanned.

Two names missing from this virtual visitors’ book are Greg Szlapcynski (now Greg Zlap), and Rick Epping.

Facebook – Rob Paparozzi – 2018

A mere 242 years after the American Revolution and my poor Heart has been captured under ‘British Rule’ I was forced to stay in the lovely home of Roger & Jo Trobridge and take walks in the stoic and quaint town of Maidenhead then made to eat large hearty and delicious home cooked meals. Forced to sleep in a bed previously shared by other Harmonica slouches like Adam Gussow, Joe Filisko, Antonio Serrano, Will Galison, Peter Madcat Ruth and some tall guy named Howard Levy! Then I had to succumb to and peruse a treasure trove of rare vintage videos, books, LPs amazing Harmonica and eclectic Music Memorabilia in their lovely home compiled by Roger who is one of the FINEST music/art archivists in the world. Even forced to sit down at Jo’s lovely Kawai Grand and play old Randy Newman songs.

Then, shuffled off to the historic town in the Southwest of Britain, Bristol and made to perform with consummate pros and then hang around with the nicest warmest blokes and ladies in the country, while staying at a 5 star hotel.

Finally, having to endure 1st class upgrades and hot roasted nuts while in flight to and from the USA. How much torture can a man endure? Help! I’ve been captured (and I loved it). But I think the Queen has found out about all this mess and has had quite enough of this ‘Paparozzi dude’, so today I will be shipped back to the States.

Kidding aside. Thank You Roger Trobridge, Jo, the National Harmonica League, Ben Hewlett, David Hambley, Dave Taylor, Phil Leiwy, Shirish, oops almost forgot Walter John Davies and all the others I forgot to mention and of course it’s lovely membership and my friend Peter Hewitt for making me feel so at home in the UK and inviting me to share music and SMILES with you all this past week.

until next time … – Rob Paparozzi – (The Italian-American Prisoner of Love)

Joe Filisko – Slouch I am!

• Robbie Kondor – Well deserved treatment, even as traitors go.

• Tony Perry – The Jersey Boy!

• Mary Ellen O’Neil Davis – Well if anyone can endure such torture you can do it. Glad they got sick of you & sent you back

• Walter John Davies – We can reveal that the NHL is actually funded by the British Secret Service as part of a covert charm offensive against you ungrateful colonials. Didn’t think it strange that we had a trusty American political prisoner working on the reception desk? We’ll get you all back serving the monarch yet.

Rob Paparozzi – it all comes back! Thanks Walter!

• Richard Hunter – Clearly a case for the International Criminal Court. Thank God you were able to survive, escape, and squeeze in a big performance!

• John Posada – You poor guy…I don’t know how you can even stand it.

• Max Morden – That’s awesome…

• Greg Heumann – Sorry for your troubles, Rob. I’m sure things will look up soon. 

Rob Paparozzi – Woe is me.

• Nicholas Coppola – I am having them load the plane with cash to pay the ransom….. Don’t worry we will have you out of there soon……lol it sure is beautiful when a plan comes together

William Galison – to you and Roger & Jo. I found their village and the walks around it, one of the most pleasant moments of my my life. Sorry about the bed I slept in. I hope it had time to air out!

Peter Madcat Ruth – I was “forced” to stay there too…

Rob Paparozzi – Ahhh I knew I’d forget another Major Dude!,-)

Howard Levy – England swings like a pendulum do…

Adam Gussow – I didn’t realize that we’d all shared that same bed, but I’m happy to know that I’m in that sort of elite company! I love Roger and Jo.

Roger Trobridge – You are making it sound like a house of ill repute – we take in everyone. Antonio Serrano Dalmas also stayed with us. I wish I had taped you all playing in the music room…….

• Houndog Mc Gateley – The playing in the bar at the hotel till the wee small hours on Sunday night was always a treat for me, some great guys and memories. Can’t say I missed it this year, my wife would kill me, we spent the time in a London for our 50th Anniversary!!!

Rob Paparozzi – We missed you Houndog but Family comes 1st and that is a major celebration my friend! Big Congrats and Many more

◦ Houndog Mc Gateley – Rob Paparozzi thanks Rob, next time eh

Antonio Serrano Dalmas – I remember transcribing Larry´s Gavotte in that room!!

• John Valent – Enjoy the magic!

• Richard Smith – Nice tribute Rob Paparozzi. I think it`s true that Roger is the only member of the NHL who has never played a harmonica….. LOL

Steve Jennings – Feb 1954 to Nov 2019 – a tribute

With contributions from Steve’s wife Josie, and his friends – Tom Hunter, Steve Jones, Rowena Millar, Johnny Mars, ‘Pip’ Rowland, and Paul Gillings.

Harmonica World

Stephen John Jennings or ‘Steve’ as he was universally known was one of the small group of volunteers who are responsible for the survival and success of the National Harmonica League (NHL) as we know it.

He joined the NHL in 1986, a few years after it separated from Hohner in 1981. Steve first started writing blues harp reviews for Harmonica World early in 1987 and by December that year he was editing the magazine, which he did until 1995. He was back on the committee as treasurer from 1998 to 2003 before stepping down to qualify as a Reader in his local Anglican church.

He attended NHL festivals in Bristol, with his wife Josie, as long as his deteriorating health would allow. He would talk long into the night, sitting on a stool in the hotel lounge.


Steve was born in London and attended Whitgift School in Croydon where he developed the sense of civic responsibility which he maintained all his life. In his early 20s, he enrolled at Rose Bruford College in London and gained a BA in Theatre Arts.

Steve, Josie and David
Steve, Josie and David

Steve was a musical child and played organ in church but blues harp became his chosen instrument in his twenties. London had lots of harp driven bands at that time and Steve was a regular at pub gigs by Shakey Vic, Johnny Mars and Lee Brilleaux of Dr. Feelgood. He was a fast learner and gained valuable experience playing with them and other harp players like Steve Baker, Paul Rowan and Alan Glen.

By now Steve was married with a son and working as a systems analyst. He had joined the NHL and wanted to share his enthusiasm and knowledge. Becoming editor in 1987 gave him a great opportunity to do this and he transformed the magazine. Living in London gave him great access to visiting players and he interviewed many of them.

In autumn1991 he took a new job with Travis Perkins near Northampton and moved with his family to Rothersthorpe. Harmonica players were always welcome there. He remained as editor until 1995.

Steve learned chromatic and performed in a duo with his wife, Josie, who played a vineta (small chord). Over the years he regularly acted as a competition judge and organiser.

Following the retirement of Hohner’s harmonica technician, Willi Dannecker, Steve taught himself to maintain and repair harmonicas and carried out work for many top players, including Les Henry (Cedric) from The Three Monarchs. Steve also made and sold custom harmonica cases.

Sharp Dressed Man

In the early1990s Steve helped to teach blues to the Harp Start Children’s program in Great Yarmouth and developed the Blue Saturday events with Norman Ives and David Priestley, which enabled many players to improve their knowledge and performance of blues music. The workshops usually ended with a jam session with Steve’s blues band, Straight Eight, with guitarist Eric Sweetland (Tom Hunter) or Double or Quits with Dave Arrowsmith on guitar. When he performed, Steve was always smartly and snappily dressed and, unusually for a musician, punctual to a tee.

In addition to the Blue Saturday event, Steve produced a series of Blues Harp Breakdown cassette tapes under the name “Sonny Jay” each of which was dedicated to teaching a well-known instrumental like “Easy” by Walter Horton. He also produced some cassettes of backing and play-along tracks.

In 1991 he wrote a book with his friend Ken Howell for advanced players of the chromatic and blues harp called The Practical Harmonica Player. Its objective was to increase fluency in all keys.

He wrote a couple of books of Blues and R&B music arranged for harmonica which were published by Wise Publications (Music Sales) as well as a tuition book for beginners. The demands for a TAB version of the sheet music in books led Steve and Pat Missin to develop and publish SuperTAB. It is an attempt to bring some order to the way TAB is being constantly being reinvented by everyone. You can find more about SuperTAB here.

In the 1990s Steve was part of an attempt to develop a process to assess the ability of harmonica teachers – HTAB (Harmonica Teacher Accreditation Board). Unfortunately the project was never completed.

Steve was very interested in the chord harmonica family of instruments and about 10 years ago he wrote a detailed article about the history and development of the many types of chord instruments, which was published in the April/May and Oct/Nov 2012 issues of Harmonica World.

Even as his health was failing, Steve continued to play as a duo, The Junkyard Crew, with Bob Coombs on guitar.

Steve had lots of experience and memories of the history of the harmonica. At the time of his death I was digitising his favourite VHS tape of the NHL festival concert in Shirley, Birmingham, in 1988.

Steve the Reader

One of the last things Steve did was to apply to Sarum College, Salisbury, to study for an MA in Christian Liturgy. It has just been awarded to him, posthumously. Steve got the funeral he wanted. In addition to the church hymns and plainsong, the service included Hoochie Coocjie Man by Muddy Waters, Down at the Doctors by Dr Feelgood and Free as a Bird by John Lennon.

Steve got the funeral he wanted. In addition to the church hymns and plainsong, the service included Hoochie Coochie Man by Muddy Waters, Down at the Doctors by Dr Feelgood and Free as a Bird by John Lennon.

When God made Steve he threw away the mould. He was an educated and determined man with an impish sense of humour who gave strength and support to the NHL for over 30 years, for which we are very grateful. I will miss his enthusiasm and support.

HarpTalk Tumblr Blog

I stepped down as editor of Harmonica World magazine after the August 2019 issue and I decided to do the simple blog I never seemed to have time to do before .

I used to use the blog to announce when the new magazine was being mailed out. Now I want to make it more of a diary where I can share bits of research or news.

Your can check it out here –

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.

Blues Harps at Christmas

Blues harmonica players and their bands performing songs about Christmas. Carey Bell, Paul Oscher, Paul Butterfield, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Little Charlie and the Nightcats, G Love, Sonny Boy Williamson, Canned Heat, Richard Sleigh, Eddie C Campbell, Mark Doyle and the Maniacs.

Track listing for Blues Harp at Christmas.

1 – Carey Bell – Christmas Train -0 0:00
2 – Paul Oscher – Christmas Blues – 03:35
3 – Paul Butterfield – Merry Christmas Baby – 07:58
4 – Sonny Boy Williamson II – Christmas Blues – 10:51
5 – Little Charlie – Christmas Time Again – 13:26
6 – G Love – Christmas Blues#2 – 16:39
7 – Sonny Boy Williamson – Christmas Morning Blues – 21:55
8 – Canned Heat – Christmas Blues – 25:18
9 – Richard Sleigh – Jingle Bells – 27:53
10 – Eddie C Campbell – Santa’s Messin’ With The Kid – 30:41
11 – Mark Doyle and the Maniacs – Merry Christmas Baby – 34:01

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