Hampton Acoustic Blues Revival “A Tribute to John Cephas”
Date: Saturday, April 10, 2010
Time: 1:30pm – 9:50pm
Location: Mary Christian Auditorium, Thomas Nelson Community College
City/Town: Hampton, VA
Phil Wiggins gave me my first lessons in harp. Phil’s partner in blues was John Cephas, probably one of the most interesting guitar players in the blues. John died last year and some of his friends are going to have a tribute concert for him.
The single best week of my life was at Blues Week in Elkins, West Virginia, listening to Phil and John play and even sitting in with them in the jam sessions. I was deeply saddened by John’s death and I wish I could get down to Hampton, Virginia to celebrate his music.
On May 22-23, 2010, blues harmonica players from around the world will be converging on Foxfire Ranch, a horse farm in Waterford, Mississippi, for two long days of lectures, workshops, jam sessions, and concerts. (Foxfire is 50 miles south of Memphis International Airport; http://www.foxfireexperience.net/)
Featured teacher/performers include:
* Billy Branch (Grammy nominated Chicago blues harp master)
* Adam Gussow with Charlie Hilbert (Satan & Adam harpist, Nat Riddles’ guitarist)
* Terry “Harmonica” Bean (one-man band – a Mississippi legend)
* Billy Gibson (Blues Music Award winner, 2009: “Instrumentalist – harmonica”)
* Brandon Bailey (Orpheum Star Search winner – teenage harp-box innovator)
* Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry (incredible hill country guitar & vocals)
* Plenty of home-cooked soul food available for lunch and dinner at low prices
* Horse rides available from Foxfire owner Bill Hollowell (30 min. for only $8)
* Free bottomless coffee and OJ on Sunday morning.
* Cold beer for sale all day Saturday/Sunday.
* No charge to bring your own coolers!
* NYC swing/harp sensation Ron Sunshine will be in residence with a full selection of deluxe vintage harp mics.
* A “harp amp throwdown” for gear-heads in which we play our way through a series of vintage tube amps while you judge for tone.
Hill Country Harmonica is an attempt to bridge the world of our own local blues scenes–including the Mississippi hill country scene–and the contemporary world of “internet” harmonica. We hope to create a face-to-face community of
harmonica players for a couple of days in the hills of North Mississippi. If you’ve been inspired
at a distance by the playing and teaching of the blues performers on our roster, or if you think
you’ve seen everything and want to be inspired all over again, we urge you to think about joining
us for a remarkable weekend of learning, grooving, playing, risking, growing, and bluesing it up.
Registration fee: $150. $50 for non-playing spouse, partner, or friend. No charge for children 12 and under.
FREE on-site camping. Deluxe campsites and inexpensive motels nearby.
For more information and registration, please visit the event website:
I’ve tried this in the past, but hackers and spammers have sent me running for the hills. The software seems to be a little better now, so I installed a forum where you can ask questions about mics, amps and gear. There is even a place to sell your old crap.
Originally published in 1998, my blues memoir, Mister Satan’s Apprentice, has just been republished with a new foreword by the University of Minnesota Press. It’s the story of a young white blues harmonica player in New York City who teams up with R&B legend Sterling “Mister Satan” Magee” on the streets of Harlem during a period of heightened racial violence (Howard Beach, Bensonhurst) and how the two men forge the unlikeliest of musical partnerships, one that leads to a touring and recording career as “Satan and Adam.” I also write about my harmonica mentor, Nat Riddles, and the tragedy that befell him. The book encompasses much of the NYC blues world of the period, including Dan Lynch, an East Village juke joint that helped launch The Holmes Brothers, Popa Chubby, Little Mike and the Tornadoes, Ron Sunshine, Dona Oxford, and other New York blues acts.
Mister Satan’s Apprentice received a Keeping the Blues Alive award in literature from the Blues Foundation in Memphis.
If you’d like to order the book, this link will take you to a page that will connect you to both Amazon.com and the University of Minnesota Press: http://www.modernbluesharmonica.com/books.html
I’ve uploaded three video-book previews in which I read passages from the book and back them up with a soundtrack that includes street recordings of both Nat Riddles and Satan & Adam:
I flipped the site from Blogger to WordPress. Things should be cleaner and easier to find. I will be converting all the pages (about 100 of them) as I find time.
Anyone who was a guest blogger or wants to be, just click the register link over on the right. By default you will be able to contribute. Just click the “New Post” button on the main page after you log in.
Keep any posts you make short and sweet. A picture or youtube video helps.
I want reviews, updates, announcements – almost anything as long as it deals with Harmonica, especially amplified Blues Harp.
Satan and Adam, the blues duo (now trio, with the addition of drummer Dave Laycock), will be making a run up the Eastern seaboard next week. This is the first time we have visited Virginia Beach, Philly, Portsmouth NH, Rockland County NY, and Atlanta in more than a decade. Thanks to new restrictions imposed by the Medicare facility in which Sterling Magee (Mr. Satan) resides in Florida, this may well be the LAST time we tour outside the South. So if you’re one of our fans from the old days, or if you’ve heard about us but never actually seen us live, we hope you’ll make a point of attending a show. I’m happy to sign harmonicas, t-shirts, etc.
8/17: Atlanta, GA – “blue Monday” party for Atlanta Harmonica Enthusiasts (time TBA). For info, please contact Jim McBride: [email protected]
Here’s a recent video of Satan and Adam in performance at a country club on Kiawah Island, South Carolina:
And here’s a video of me and Dave in our first public performance of “Crossroad Blues.” I’ve adapted the harp part from Clapton’s guitar part in Cream’s live version of the song. I’m playing foot drums (made by Pete Farmer of Bellingham, WA) for the first time in public. I WILL be playing this song on tour. Sterling is sitting it out:
If you’re a harmonica player in search of inspiration, you might think about checking out some of my recently-uploaded video tutorials.
Got My Mojo Working: The holy grail for many harp players. A song that you absolutely, positively need to know. This is a two-part lesson organized around a two-page tab sheet. First page is my adaptation of the “head” or intro that always kicks the song off; second page is a transcription of the first 12 bars of Kim Wilson’s solo on Jimmy Rodgers’s LUDELLA album–a kick-ass harp throwdown, decoded and reassembled. The head is within reach for INTERMEDIATE as well as ADVANCED INTERMEDIATE players; the solo is extremely challenging at full speed.
Just wanted to let fans of amped-up harp know about something a little bit different that I’ve been working on recently. I’ve always loved Cream’s version of Robert Johnson’s “Cross Road Blues” (“Crossroad Blues” when Cream does it), especially Clapton’s remarkable-for-the-time refashioning of electric guitar into something larger-than-life. So I worked up a version of Clapton’s opening 12-bars for harmonica, and added a primitive foot-stomp sound by plugging a wooden block into my 1955 Bassman. Here’s the result:
My trio Satan and Adam is about to go on tour; this experiment worked out so well that we’re planning to add “Crossroads Blues” to our set. I get to turn my amps ALL the way up! This would make any harp player very happy.
About that tour: please visit http://www.modernbluesharmonica.com/personal_appearances.html for a complete list of gigs. We’ll be hitting South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Hampshire.
A while I created a series of blues stencils that could be printed out, cut up and used with a little spray paint to put Little Walter, Rod Piazza or B.B. King on your favorite pickup truck bed, the sides of buildings, or on the wall of your room.
Rick Estrin gave me a call and asked me if he could use the stencil that I made of him. It was based on a picture that I took at one of his performances and it really came out well. I was happy to oblige. Rick is one the best players out there and one of my personal heroes. He has always taken time to talk to me when he comes to my neck of the woods. He is a great guy.
I made a bunch of other stencil images, including a couple of Little Walter. Imagine my surprise when the Facebook group Harmonica 411 appropriated one of them without so much as a by your leave for their logo.
Here’s my stencil:
Here is their logo:
My stencil is modeled on a famous Walter pose, but the 411 logo makes no attempt to hide that they borrowed it from me.
I admit that I based my interpretation on a famous photo so I guess I don’t have much of claim to it. At least I reworked the original and did not directly copy it.
I am just learning how to post things to blogs now. This was the first video I did on harmonica stuff… It is a very simple watered down version of the blues… I will try to post more videos soon if this is well received… Cheers, and Happy Harping!!!
I started the JT30 page back around 1994 as an AOL web page. I hand coded the page using notepad and tested it using Netscape Navigator. I originally put the page up as an advertisement for modifying and repairing JT30 mics. I found that I did not have the time to keep up with the orders so I stopped doing that. I collected lots of information about JT30s, Amplifiers and playing amplified Blues.
At one point I shut the site down because I was getting so many emails and requests for information. I later started it up when the internet got larger and other people did the same kind of thing much better than I ever could.
In 1999 I registered the domain JT30.com.
I wrote a few music theory articles and tabbed out some simple riffs and I have been getting slow but steady traffic ever since. In recent years my life has become busy and other projects have taken up my time so I have not added very much to the site. I still play a little harp when I get a chance, but I never get to the jams and seldom find the time to go out to a show. I have tried to recruit guest bloggers, but so far there are only a few takers.
In a year or so I will retire and at that time I want to start working on the site again. I would like to tab out some of my harp favorites in greater depth like I did with Sonny Boy’s Help Me. I want to give some step by step instructions for some of the mic mods that I do. I want to document some of the odd things that I’ve done with harp tuning. It will have to wait until I no longer have to spend my time making a living in hard economic times.
Several years ago I went down to Elkins, West Virginia to learn how to play harp at Blues Week. Probably the best part of this experience was John Cephas and Phil Wiggins. Their rich brand of Piedmont Blues struck a resonant chord in me. I keep their albums rotating in my play list even after 10 years.
John Cephas passed recently and he will surely be missed. Not just by the thousands of guitar players who were his students, but all of us harp players who can recognize when a good guitar man knows just the right thing to play behind a blues harmonica.
I saw Cephas and Wiggins every time they came north, which was once in a blue moon. John always remembered me and we talked fondly about the Blues Week barbecues and the concerts. He was a quiet and intelligent man. He told good stories and could pick the hell out of a guitar.
I always wanted to go back to Blues Week when my financials improved, and see John and Phil play on the porch until the wee small hours. I waited too long. John won’t be going back.
I was looking through some of the older posts on my blog and saw one that may be useful to some of you. It’s certainly as applicable in my own musical life now as it was then:
Do you have a ‘study buddy’? Sometimes it can be really helpful just to have someone to talk with about your musical path & goals. I’ve been in a huddle lately with my “study buddy” over practice and it’s gotten pretty interesting.
We’ve been talking about “S.M.A.R.T.” goals. For instance:
S-pecifc [I need to learn my new band's arrangements of 40 songs, plus vocals on 12 of those] M-easurable [I need to learn them well enough to perform them]I’ll measure my success against the approval I get from my bandmates in our weekly rehearsal, and at the gig. A-cheivable [I can do it - I've played 80% of them at one time or another] R-ealistic [I want to do it, and I need to do it to be qualified for the gig] T-imely [Our next gig is in early December, 6 weeks away]
Promise yourself a reward for acheiving your goal. Now, in the case of musicians, most of us feel that just having the opportunity to play is it’s own reward, but when you set goals, it’s a good idea to set a special reward for a special effort. My reward in this case will be to spent the money I get paid on a new axe , which is not something I usually do with gig pay.
When setting goals like this, “take ownership” of your goals by sharing them with a friend or mentor who will help you hold yourself accountable. You might even do this by publishing your goals – like on this blog, for example.
Break the goal down into action steps that make sense and fit into the amount of time you have available. If you schedule daily practice sessions, have a specific number of things you’ll do planned for each practice, for instance: Warm-up – 5 min. Sing 2 songs – 10 min. Play 3 songs with practice CD, 15 min. Free Play – 5 min. (Oh, yeah – keep it FUN)
Monitor your progress – check in with your self, your study-buddy, or Mentor on a frequent, regular basis. If you start to get off track, this will save you before things get too out of hand.
Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t exactly acheve your goal. Instead, adjust your next milestone, congratulate yourself on the real progress you made by your honest effort, and recycle – start working on that next goal.
The more you do this, the easier the organizing process becomes – eventually, it may even start working it’s way into your routine subconsciously.