HH 1204 Preview



HH 1204 Preview
H ar monica
A quarterly publication of the Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica
The 2012
Post-Convention Issue!
Fall, 2012 Vol. 46 No. 4
2012 - 2013
Corporate Sponsors
The SPAH Corporate Sponsorship Program benefits SPAH, its members and the sponsors.
The sponsors listed below have demonstrated their dedication to the preservation and
advancement of the harmonica by actively participating in SPAH conventions
and other activities and by financially supporting the organization.
They deserve the thanks, recognition and support of SPAH members.
Hohner, Inc.
Clay Edwards
Suzuki Musical Instruments
Daron Stinton
Harmonica/school Division Manager
(800) 854-1594
Rupert Oysler
(828) 262-1088
I n t h i s issu e:
Vol. 46, No. 4, Fall 2012
SPAH thanks some of its most
faithful servants.
Two SPAH 2012 attendees relate their
©2007, The Society for the Preservation
and Advancement of the Harmonica.
All rights reserved. No portion of this
publication may be reproduced in any form
without permission in writing from SPAH,
Inc. Printed in U.S.A. Harmonica Happenings
is published quarterly by SPAH, Inc.,
a nonprofit organization, incorporated in
the State of Michigan on October 23, 1963.
SPAH Correspondence should be sent to:
SPAH, Inc.
P.O. Box 865
Troy, MI 48099-0865
13 SPAH 2012 PHOTOS—
Reminisce or just see what you missed.
Manfred shows you how the seminar
sausage gets made.
Winslow Yerxa
Vice President &
L.J. Atkison
Vendor Liaison
Deb Anderson
Secretary & Treasurer
Convention Director
Barbara Cleverdon
Phillip Franklin
Membership Director
Magazine Editor & Publisher
JP Pagán
22 STUDIO 1411­—
Hal Walker comes to SPAH looking for the
greats, and finds more than he bargained for.
28 Book Review—
Rob Fletcher reviews Life Takes Care of Itself,
the latest Al Smith autobiography.
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for inclusion in the specified issue
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Summer issue - June 15
Fall issue - September 15
Winter issue - December 15
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JP Pagán
Phone: 347-564-3073 Email: [email protected]
JP Pagán
Jaine Rodack
Paul Metris
Sergeant at Arms
Norm Dobson
International Liaison
SPAH Historian
Danny Wilson
Paul Davies
Manfred Wewers Web Content Manager &
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Three Stone Media
Web Site Hosting
Kent Allen
Harmonicas & Health
Terry Rand
Winslow Yerxa
Earl Collins 1924 -1988
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Membership entitles each member
to receive a full year’s issues of
Harmonica Happenings plus discounts
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To insure receiving your next copy, send
both your old and new address to:
Membership Director, SPAH, Inc.
P.O. Box 865, Troy, MI 48099-0865
Studio 1411
By Hal Walker
’m a Pisces. My best ideas often come when I’m
immersed in water. I admit that I’ve been known
to carry a harmonica into the bathtub in search
of inspiration, good acoustics and new combinations of blow and draw. It was a hot August evening in Kent, Ohio and I
was floating in the cool water of a hidden away swimming hole that we call “The Quarry.” In a moment
of truth beneath the rising moon, it occurred to me,
“I’m gonna bring my video equipment to SPAH, turn
my hotel room into a studio and record HD interviews with some of the world’s greatest harmonica
players... and I’m leaving tomorrow.” With the recent
launch of “Harmonica for the People,” my weekly
instructional video blog at Harmonica.com, I knew
the timing was perfect. I thought this project would
be a great way to share a teaching spotlight with the
players that I would soon be meeting at my very first
SPAH convention.
Arriving at the hotel in Dallas, I was mildly disappointed. Room 1411 was small with a great big bed
right in the middle of it. “Where in the world am I
gonna put a camera?” Here I was in the middle of
nowhere Dallas with nothing but a Denny’s across
the street and a hotel full of harmonica players who
have never heard of me. I sent texts back to Kent like,
“I think I’m ready to come home.” and “What am I
supposed to eat?!” I would soon find out that SPAH
isn’t about the food. I’d soon discover that a SPAH
convention is about the music, the people and the
connections that we build. It’s about carrying forward
a musical tradition and moving the harmonica into
the future. I would also soon discover that Denny’s
makes a darn good Florida Sunshine Salad.
I think it was that Florida Sunshine Salad that
energized me to head back to my room and start
getting ready. I leaned the bed frame and the box
spring against the back wall. At night, I would drop
the mattress down for my bed. I stacked tables and
chairs into the corner and I hung a black backdrop. I
unpacked the camera (JVC GY-HM100), the lights,
the stands, the umbrellas and a microphone. Within
about an hour, I had transformed that little hotel
room into “Studio 1411.” And now, it was time to go
meet some harmonica players.
Just so you know, I started playing the harmonica
in 3rd grade. For about 10 years, I played just two
songs -- “Oh! Susanna” and “Amazing Grace.” My
granny loved it when I’d perform them at our family
gatherings in Birmingham, Alabama. Eventually, I
went away to college at Northwestern University and
it was there that I came across a book and a tape
called Harmonica for the Musically Hopeless by Jon
Gindick. I learned those basic riffs and I spent my
weekends wandering around Chicago alone in search
of stairwells and parking garages with good acoustics.
Jon Gindick was my first teacher and appropriately, he
was the first guy that I’d ask for an interview.
To my pleasant surprise, Jon responded with an
enthusiastic “Yes.” We set a time and briefly discussed
Harmonica Happenings
the general format that I had imagined. We’d start
with a double-harp jam. Then I’d ask the artists to
talk a little bit about themselves. Then the artist
would offer a brief lesson—something that would
inspire the viewer to break out a harmonica and to
play along. We’d finish with a a closing number. Each
video would be about 15 minutes long and, to ease
my time in editing, we’d try to do it all in one take.
Jon was the perfect guy to go first. Here I was in
Studio 1411 jammin’ with the legend. Our musical
chemistry was good from the start. Jon gave a nice
lesson on 3rd position playing (e.g., playing a C harp
in the key of D). In about 5 minutes of instruction,
I had learned the song “Joshua Fought the Battle of
Jericho” and a whole lot more. It’s obvious to me that
Jon Gindick is a true artist and a great teacher. And
he’s got that subversive quality that I like in a guy.
Thanks, Jon.
I found my next two subjects that first night as I
sat mesmerized in the hotel lobby around a table with
about 5 or 6 jazz players. I knew that I was witnessing
something very special as “Slide Man Slim” Heilpern
looped guitar changes through a little amp and each of
these guys took turns soloing over the changes. I was
particularly drawn in by a humble looking cat who
was playing diatonic with a sweet, soulful sound. I
liked his tone and I loved his style. His sideways mouth
position, the flutter of his fingers and the expressions
on his face were truly something to behold. It felt like
he was playing from somewhere deep and I couldn’t
wait to capture that. In Studio 1411, Kirk “Jelly Roll”
Johnson would be my next interview. Jelly Roll offered
a nice lesson on tone. He encouraged us to hold a
single draw note and to build and sculpt the sound
with our throats, our mouths and our hands.
Back at the jazz table, a strong, athletic looking
dude stepped into the circle with a cigar box full of
harps and the confidence of someone who had done
this before. Scott Albert Johnson’s style is unique
to say the least. Switching harmonicas several times
throughout his solo, Scott held the harp almost vertically, sliding it up and down along side his nose as he
travelled over modes, positions and overblows with
a friendly ease. During our interview, Scott shared
a great lesson on 4th position (e.g., playing a C
harmonica in the key of A minor). He taught me the
song “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers and he got
everyone inside that camera playing along.
It was the morning of day 2 that I started getting
that warm feeling that maybe I really belong in this
hotel full of harmonica enthusiasts. I stumbled into
a chordal rhythm jam with Paul Davies and Steve
Watne playing those MD harmonicas—the cool Seydel
Fall 2012
mini chord that was produced specifically to promote
lung health. These guys were playing the way I play:
combining octaves with multi-layered tonguing, big
chords and syncopated rhythms. This is the kind of
playing that inspires Youtube comments like, “Fake!
You’re multi-tracking...” Playing “Oh! Susanna” and
“Redwing” with these 2 guys was like walking into
a live multi-track recording with myself. During that
jam, it occurred to me that maybe coming to SPAH
was like coming home.
Paul Davies was my next victim in the studio. He
gave a perfectly imperfect lesson on the perfect octaves
available on holes 1-4 (blow and draw) and 2-5
(blow). With big octaves and syncopated chording,
Paul and I took “Mary Had a Little Lamb” to a whole
‘nother dimension.
I love the way connections are made at SPAH. On
Thursday evening, I wandered outside for a breath of
fresh air and ended up meeting two nice guys from
France. “Sunnyside Bob” is a fun and friendly soul
from Metz. With his eastern French accent, he took
a particular interest in my name, “Hell Walker.” He
couldn’t believe that someone was actually named,
“Hell Walker.” I was sorry to disappoint him the next
day when I clarified that my name is actually “HAL
Walker.” Within 25 minutes of conversation, Sunnyside Bob, Marko Balland and I were on our way up
the elevators to Studio 1411. What a treat! I got to
sit between 2 French guys on a Thursday night in
Dallas and learn a basic train rhythm. To end the set,
Marko Balland from Marseille treated us to some Jimi
Hendrix, XB-40 style.
Speaking of nice harps, my first chromatic
harmonica purchase was at the Garden State Festival
in 2011. I opted for the Suzuki G-48W. Watching
online video reviews, I came across a guy named
Brendan Power. I immediately became a big fan. As
far as I’m concerned, this guy is the cutting edge of
harmonica playing and harmonica technology. On
Friday morning, I was so pleased to walk into an 8:30
workshop on live looping and see Brendan at the front
of the room. I moved directly to the front row.
At the end of the workshop, Brendan announced
that he was catching a flight to the U.K. in 45
minutes. I asked myself, “Do I have the balls to introduce myself and
ask Brendan
Hal Walker is a
singer, songwriter
Power for an
and multiinstrumentalist
interview when
from Kent, Ohio.
He plays lead
he’s on the way
chromatic in
Reed City, a new
out the door?”
harmonica quartet.
Apparently I did
and he gave an
enthusiastic “Yes.” We squeezed in a 20 minute video
session with a lesson on two forms of vibrato. We also
managed to do some last minute business as he sold
me one of his own original harmonicas, the Power
Bender in A. I spent the rest of the conference learning
the layout of that harp as I walked the halls and rode
the elevators. Several times, I chose the reverberating stairwell over the elevator. Sauntering down 14
flights of stairs, mode after mode and bend after bend
revealed themselves to me. Nice work, Brendan!
Of course, every peak experience comes balanced
with a more challenging moment. I spent some time at
the Suzuki booth where I was test driving any harp of
my choosing. Cut the scene to 90 seconds later where
I’m standing at Danny G’s table of new harps. I pick
one up and give it a blow just to check out the sound.
It was then I see the signs posted everywhere... “You
blow it, You own it!” After the initial shock passed,
I can say that I’m now the proud owner of a Seydel
chromatic in G. I think after some more tuning practice, I’m gonna turn this beauty into a slide diatonic,
Brendan Power style. Speaking of power, let’s talk about tango harmonica
virtuoso, Joe Powers. Friendly to the camera, Joe
Powers pulls passion, drama, heartbreak and love
through those 16 holes. He does the tango with his
Sirius 64. With closed eyes, he plays single notes off
to one side of his mouth and then opens it up to flying
octaves all the while being a super nice and humble
guy! Joe has done the work to become a master and
I was honored to sit next to him as we filmed his
passionate tango, “Paciencia.” And then he offered
a lesson in hand tremelo. We closed with a tremelo
laden “Oh! Susanna” in the key of C and then a
double harp jam. Nice.
You know, I’ve always been drawn to smart looking
guys with scruffy beards and a relaxed sense of style.
You can’t judge a book by it’s cover but somehow, just
by looking at Sam Friedman, I knew he was good. I
remember the way at Garden State he played bass riffs
on the piano with his left hand and then played jazz
riffs on the diatonic with his right wailing notes that
I didn’t even know existed. On jazz night in the pub,
there was a rumor going around that Sam Friedman
only carries one B-flat diatonic and he plays it in all
keys. In our interview, Sam dispelled that rumor. He
actually carries several harps... and he plays them all
in all keys. On camera, Sam and I had a really interesting conversation on the art of improvisation. To
briefly summarize his most adamant words, “Make
sure you’re listening... Pay attention to what the other
guy is doing.”
I can’t tell you how happy I am to be working with
Al and Judy Smith in a new harmonica quartet called
Reed City. What an honor it is to sit every week at
the dining room table of these two living legends. Al
with his lovable demand for excellence and Judy with
her warm hospitality and her willingness to play the
harmony. Our bass player, Dave Watt couldn’t make
it to SPAH, so we recruited George Miklas to fill in as
we opened the show on Wednesday evening. As my
middle-aged eyes and newcomer nerves went in and
out of focus on the notes of “My Heart Belongs to
Daddy,” I vowed then and there that from now on,
I will memorize the music. I know its not gonna be
easy, but one song at a time, I’ve gotta do it.
Reed City’s video session was fun. We chose to
perform “Maltese Melody,” “Valsentino” and “In
My Solitude.” Judy quickly learned the bass parts and
we played as a trio. I love the way three harmonica
players can turn a song into a symphony. Bass, chord
and chromatic—a tradition that must never die!
I’d gone into this video project assuming that my
goal would be to interview the biggest names and
the greatest players at the conference. By Friday
afternoon, I had realized that this was the wrong
approach. So, when I shared an elevator with a 12
year old kid holding a bag of customized harps, I
didn’t hesitate to ask for an interview. Carlos Romero
is a kid from Florida with a natural born feeling for
the blues. I suggested that his lesson be on the 12 bar
blues format. Together, Carlos and I explored 12 bars
with big chords, blows and draws. As a guy who’s
just been making it up the whole time, I needed that
lesson. I need to get that form into my bones. I-IV-l-l,
lV-lV-l-l, V,lV,l,V... Thanks Carlos! You rock.
For the first couple days, with a smile and a nod I
passed by that front couch of old-timers playing the
standards. It wasn’t till Friday morning that I finally
sat down to join in. As I played along by ear on
Harmonica Happenings
“Beautiful Dreamer,” “What a Wonderful World” and
“You Are My Sunshine,” my heart expanded. These
are the songs of the American Songbook. Phil and
Tony Sardo bring people together with these songs.
What a treat it was to hear Tony tell the story of his
first harmonica, then swoon in unison with Phil’s
chromatic. Leading familiar songs from the couch,
these guys do a tremendous service. I can’t wait to
play along next year.
Through the wonders of YouTube, I’ve admired
the Swede, Filip Jers, from a distance. With 120,000
views, he’s doing fairly well. At the ripe young age
of his mid-20’s, Filip Jers is a creative and flowering
musician. At his Friday afternoon concert, I fell in love
with his original, “February Song.” In our Studio 1411
session, he used hand motions to illustrate the blows
and draws of a beautiful Swedish hymn called “The
Flowering Season That Now Arrives.” He shared his
secret technique of maintaining a drone throughout the
piece by switching between 2-draw and 3-blow on the
left side of the tongue block. I can’t wait to borrow it,
master it and then copyright it! (just kidding, Fil)
I’ve never been the kind of harp player that picks
up a bullet mic and wails the blues in front of a bar
band. I prefer the acoustic warmth of folk venues,
concert halls and church sanctuaries. But on Friday
night when Don Wickham stepped up to mic and
played “Georgia on My Mind,” my perspective shifted.
I loved the way he knew exactly where the song was
heading and when the changes were happening. He
screamed those Jimmy Reed high bends and set that
mic on fire. In the studio, I enjoyed getting a lesson on
8-, 9-, and 10-hole blow-bends from Don. He plays
these beautiful wooden-comb customized Seydel 1847s
with precision and he makes a deep, soulful sound—
even when he’s blowin’ the high notes.
As I sat enjoying Friday night’s concert, it occurred
to me that I hadn’t yet interviewed a woman. About
that same time, Kaleena Hutchins stepped onto the
stage and played “Midnight On The Water.” I’m a
true lover of waltzes and Kaleena charmed me with
her southern drawl. For our interview, she performed
her award winning “Orange Blossom Special” and
then shared a lesson on the train rhythm. On camera
with her sweet smile and a flower in her hair, you can
Fall 2012
tell she’s gonna be a heart-breaker.
Well, the week was wrapping up and everybody
was dressed up for the banquet. I saw Joe Filisko
standing alone for moment and I decided to grab
one last opportunity. Joe responded with the familiar
SPAH generosity that I had now become accustomed
to: “How ‘bout we do it right now?” he said. Five
minutes later, we were in Studio 1411 and Joe Filisko
was teaching me a cajun tune called the “Criminal
Waltz.” I’m so glad that my old guitar friend from
Ohio, Eric Noden has teamed up with Joe and
together they’re traveling the world spreading the
good word of the harmonica.
I figured that with the Filisko interview, I was done.
I would be satisfied with 15. That was until I walked
out of the banquet hall into a circle of 20 guys with A
harps playing the blues in E. One young player took
a powerful lead and I got greedy. My final interview
of the week was a lesson in “harpboxing” (beatbox
and harmonica) from Brandon Bailey. We turned the
spoken words, “boots ‘n cats” into the kick drum, the
snare and the high hat. I was so impressed with Brandon’s well-spoken teaching style. I can’t wait for you
to see the video.
In all, I captured 16 HD interviews with lessons.
Starting October 15, we’re gonna release them one at
time on my weekly blog at www.harmonica.com/hal.
But there were hundreds of interviews that I missed.
Every other attendee of that conference in Dallas has
their own story and a lesson to share. I guess there’s
always next year.
I finally made it back to the room at 1:30 am on
Saturday night and I knew it was way past time
to pack it up. My shuttle would be leaving in the
morning at 6 am and my bed was still in pieces against
the wall. I took one last photograph of Studio 1411
and then I enjoyed putting the room back together.
Somehow, I made it to the airport on time with one
last Denny’s breakfast in a bag. So I return home to
Ohio with a new Family. A family of blowers and
suckers :) A family of great talent and welcoming
humility. A family that plays the kind of music that
I love on an instrument that has helped to define my
life here on this Earth. Thank you, SPAH. I’m glad to
know you and “I’ll see you in St. Louis.” jq
CD Review
Rockin’ All Day &
What’s It Gonn a Take
Dennis Gruenling & Doug Deming serve up a double order of roots stew
By JP Pagán
Blues guitarist Kid Ramos
has a wonderful quote that
came to mind when I first heard
the tracks on these two new
CDs: “It’s not retro, it’s unfinished business.” Dennis Gruenling and Doug Deming aren’t
playing old music—they’re
keeping the music from ever
getting old.
Dennis Gruenling eats, sleeps
and breathes harmonica. He’s
a musician, a technician, a
teacher and radio show host.
He’s also appeared at several
SPAH conventions in recent
years. In 2011, at the Virginia
Beach convention, Dennis
brought along singer/guitarist
Doug Deming and bass player
Andrew Gohman, two members
of the Jewel Tones. These three,
along with drummer Devin
Neel, have just put out not one,
but two albums of well-written,
finely executed blues, rock,
jump and swing.
Dennis’ album is titled
Rockin All Day, and features
Track List: 1. Rockin’ All Day
2. Roll Your Money Maker
3. The Rev
4. Saturday Night Fish Fry
5. One Scotch, One Bourbon, One
6. She’s So Pretty
7. You Can Do No Wrong
8. It Went Down Easy
9. 2:22 AM
10. What’s Wrong With Me
11. Bloodshot Eyes
12. Actin’ Crazy
13. Hotso
Track List: 1. What’s It Gonna Take
2. Think Hard
3. One Good Reason
4. Poison Ivy
5. Eye for an Eye
6. I Want You to Be My Baby
7. No Big Thrill
8. Stay Away
9. Lucky Charm
10. Pretty Girl, A (A Cadillac and
Some Money)
11. Bella’s Boogie
Harmonica Happenings
(among others) covers of Louis
Jordan, Wynonie Harris and
Jimmy McCracklin along with
three original instrumentals and
one tune penned by Deming. It’s
an album heavy on early jump
blues and little-heard blues
tracks. Doug and the Jewel
Tones back Dennis on half the
tracks, while the rest of the
album features long-time band
mates Scot Hornick on bass and
Nick Papadatos on drums.
Doug’s album, What’s It
Gonna Take, is mostly originals—blues, early rock n’ roll
and a bit of rockabilly.
The two albums really go well
together, as the guys proved
at one of their live shows on
their promotional tour for
the albums. They pretty much
switched from playing a song
on one album to playing a song
from the other and the whole
evening had a great flow, with
the range of styles falling into a
stew of classic American roots
Dennis’ playing on the albums
is simply stunning. He sounds
energized and inspired on nearly
every track. And while he’s
treading musical territory that
isn’t exactly “new,” he does so
with his own unique approach.
One facet of that approach
is his harmonica choices. He
plays chromatics on many of
the tracks on the two albums
and low-tuned diatonics on a
number of others. And he keeps
his sound varied, employing
different backing techniques
from one song to the next.
Doug has a similar chameleon-quality when it comes to
his singing and song-writing:
sweet and light one moment,
upsettin’ the club the next.
My favorite tracks are
often the covers, as it’s fun
to hear new takes on classics like “Bloodshot Eyes” and
“Saturday Night Fish Fry,”
or to new-to-me gems like “I
Want You To Be My Baby” (an
impressive vocal and instrumental feat on Doug’s part) and
“A Pretty Girl (A Cadillac and
Some Money),” (with almost
tuba-like backing from Dennis).
But originals like Dennis’
chromatic instrumental “The
Rev” or Doug’s rockin, retro
“One Good Reason” were also
instant favorites.
If you love killer harmonica
and tunes that make you want
to get up and dance, you can’t
get just one of these albums—
the two go together like suede
shoes and pompadours. Getting
just one would be unfinished
Harmonica Happenings
Ad Rates & Specs
Black & white ads:
1/4 page ad
(4.75” high by 3.5” wide)
$50 per issue or
$150 for 4 issues
Color ads:
1/4 page ad
(4.75” high by 3.5” wide)
$100 per issue or
$350 for 4 issues
1/2 page ad
(4.75” high by 7” wide)
$85 per issue or
$290 for 4 issues
1/2 page ad
(4.75” high by 7” wide)
$175 per issue or
$600 for 4 issues
Full page ad
(9.5” high by 7” wide)
$170 per issue or
$580 for 4 issues
Full page ad
(9.5” high by 7” wide)
$350 per issue or
$1200 for 4 issues
Ads must be CMYK and 300dpi. Additional charges
apply for mock-ups. For further information
please contact JP Pagán at [email protected]
Fall 2012

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